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Title: Observations and modeling of symmetric instability in the ocean interior in the Northwestern Equatorial Pacific
Abstract Symmetric instability is a mechanism that can transfer geostrophic kinetic energy to overturning and dissipation. To date, symmetric instability has only been recognized to occur at the ocean surface or near topographic boundary layers. Analyses of direct microstructure measurements reveal enhanced dissipation caused by symmetric instability in the northwestern equatorial Pacific thermocline, which provides the first observational evidence of subsurface symmetric instability away from boundaries. Enhanced subsurface cross-equatorial exchange provides the negative potential vorticity needed to drive the symmetric instability, which is well reproduced by numerical modeling. These results suggest a new route to energy dissipation for large scale currents, and hence a new ocean turbulent mixing process in the ocean interior. Given the importance of vertical mixing in the evolution of equatorial thermocline, models may need to account for this mechanism to produce more reliable climate projections.
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Award ID(s):
1941963 1829856
Publication Date:
Journal Name:
Communications Earth & Environment
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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