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Enhanced upwelling of Antarctic Bottom Water by topographic interaction of water mass interfaces
  • Lois Elizabeth Baker,
  • Ali Mashayek,
  • Alberto C. Naveira Garabato
Lois Elizabeth Baker
Imperial College London

Corresponding Author:[email protected]

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Ali Mashayek
Imperial College London
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Alberto C. Naveira Garabato
University of Southampton
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The lower cell of the meridional overturning circulation (MOC) is sourced by dense Antarctic Bottom Water (AABW), which forms and sinks around Antarctica and subsequently fills the abyssal ocean. For the MOC to ‘overturn’, these dense waters must upwell through mixing with lighter waters above. Here, we investigate the processes underpinning such mixing, and the resulting water mass transformation, using an observationally forced, high-resolution numerical model of the Drake Passage in the Southern Ocean. In the Drake Passage, the mixing of dense AABW formed in the Weddell Sea with lighter deep waters transported from the Pacific Ocean by the Antarctic Circumpolar Current is catalysed by energetic flows impinging on rough topography. We find that multiple topographic interaction processes act to facilitate mixing of the two water masses, ultimately resulting in upwelling of waters with neutral density greater 28.19 kg m-3, and downwelling of the lighter waters above. In particular, we identify the role of sharp density interfaces between AABW and overlying waters, and find that the dynamics of the interfaces’ interaction with topography can enhance mixing. Such sharp interfaces between water masses have been observed in several parts of the global ocean, but are unresolved and unrepresented in ocean and climate models. We suggest that they are likely to play an important role in abyssal dynamics and mixing, and therefore require further exploration.