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On the Consumption of Antarctic Bottom Water in the Abyssal Ocean

Abstract : The abyssal ocean is primarily filled by cold, dense waters formed around Antarctica and collectively referred to as Antarctic Bottom Water (AABW). At steady state, AABW must be consumed in the ocean interior at the same rate it is produced, but how and where this consumption is achieved remains poorly understood. Here, estimates of abyssal water mass transformation by geothermal heating and parameterized internal wave–driven mixing are presented. This study uses maps of the energy input to internal waves by tidal and geostrophic motions interacting with topography combined with assumptions about the distribution of energy dissipation to evaluate dianeutral transports induced by breaking internal tides and lee waves. Geothermal transformation is assessed based on a map of geothermal heat fluxes. Under the hypotheses underlying the constructed climatologies of buoyancy fluxes, the authors calculate that locally dissipating internal tides and geothermal heating contribute, respectively, about 8 and 5 Sverdrups (Sv; 1 Sv ≡ 106 m3 s-1) of AABW consumption (upwelling), mostly north of 30°S. In contrast, parameterized lee wave–driven mixing causes significant transformation only in the Southern Ocean, where it forms about 3 Sv of AABW, decreasing the mean density but enhancing the northward flow of abyssal waters. The possible role of remotely dissipating internal tides in complementing AABW consumption is explored based on idealized distributions of mixing energy. Depending mostly on the chosen vertical structure, such mixing could drive 1 to 28 Sv of additional AABW upwelling, highlighting the need to better constrain the spatial distribution of remote dissipation. Though they carry large uncertainties, these climatological transformation estimates shed light on the qualitative functioning and key unknowns of the diabatic overturning.
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Casimir de Lavergne, Gurvan Madec, Julien Le Sommer, A. J. George Nurser, Alberto C. Naveira Garabato. On the Consumption of Antarctic Bottom Water in the Abyssal Ocean. Journal of Physical Oceanography, American Meteorological Society, 2016, 46 (2), pp.635-661. ⟨10.1175/JPO-D-14-0201.1⟩. ⟨hal-01274735⟩

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