Deep-ocean mixing driven by small-scale internal tides

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  • Clément Vic
    National Oceanography Centre, Southampton
  • Alberto C. Naveira-Garabato
    National Oceanography Centre, Southampton
  • J. A. Mattias Green
  • Amy F. Waterhouse
    University of California, San Diego
  • Zhongxiang Zhao
    University of Washington
  • Angélique Melet
    Mercator Ocean
  • Casimir de Lavergne
    Sorbonne Université-CNRS-IRD-MNHN
  • Maarten C. Buijsman
    University of Southern Mississippi
  • Gordon R. Stephenson
    University of Southern Mississippi
Turbulent mixing in the ocean is key to regulate the transport of heat, freshwater and biogeochemical tracers, with strong implications for Earth’s climate. In the deep ocean, tides supply much of the mechanical energy required to sustain mixing via the generation of internal waves, known as internal tides, whose fate—the relative importance of their local versus remote breaking into turbulence—remains uncertain. Here, we combine a semi-analytical model of internal tide generation with satellite and in situ measurements to show that from an energetic viewpoint, small-scale internal tides, hitherto overlooked, account for the bulk (>50%) of global internal tide generation, breaking and mixing. Furthermore, we unveil the pronounced geographical variations of their energy proportion, ignored by current parameterisations of mixing in climate-scale models. Based on these results, we propose a physically consistent, observationally supported approach to accurately represent the dissipation of small-scale internal tides and their induced mixing in climate-scale models.
Original languageEnglish
Article number 2099 (2019)
JournalNature Communications
Publication statusPublished - 8 May 2019

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