The Production and Dissipation of Compensated Thermohaline Variance by Mesoscale Stirring

(Smith, K. S. and Ferrari, Raffaele), Journal of Physical Oceanography, vol. 39, no. 10, pp. pages, 2009.


Abstract Temperature–salinity profiles from the region studied in the North Atlantic Tracer Release Experiment (NATRE) show large isopycnal excursions at depths just below the thermocline. It is proposed here that these thermohaline filaments result from the mesoscale stirring of large-scale temperature and salinity gradients by geostrophic turbulence, resulting in a direct cascade of thermohaline variance to small scales. This hypothesis is investigated as follows: Measurements from NATRE are used to generate mean temperature, salinity, and shear profiles. The mean stratification and shear are used as the background state in a high-resolution horizontally homogeneous quasigeostrophic model. The mean state is baroclinically unstable, and the model produces a vigorous eddy field. Temperature and salinity are stirred laterally in each density layer by the geostrophic velocity and vertical advection is by the ageostrophic velocity. The simulated temperature–salinity diagram exhibits fluctuations at depths ju…

doi = 10.1175/2009JPO4103.1

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