Can underwater gliders quantify horizontal ocean mixing in the West Antarctic?

Lead Research Organisation: University of Southampton
Department Name: School of Ocean and Earth Science


Quantifying and understanding the processes driving ocean mixing is key to closing the ocean's overturning circulation and improving future climate projections. Historically, mixing measurements in the ocean have been taken using free-falling profilers; however in the last five years new techniques have been developed to allow turbulence to be measured using underwater gliders (Fer et al., 2014). These platforms increase by an order of magnitude the number of measurements both of dissipation of turbulent kinetic energy, and the dissipation of temperature variance within the ocean. Whilst this in itself provides very significant improvements in resolving the patchiness of vertical mixing, we wish to understand whether these measurements can, with careful processing, be used to calculate horizontal ocean mixing. This is an important quantity to estimate in the West Antarctic, as horizontal mixing and stirring of the ocean by eddies are important processes for delivering ocean heat to the glaciers and ice shelves in this region (Martinson et al., 2008; Pritchard et al., 2012). The West Antarctic is known to be one of the fastest warming environments on the planet, with significant loss of both land- and sea-ice in the last 30 years. The work will be strongly integrated with existing expertise at BAS and the University of Southampton in Southern Ocean mixing processes, ultimately providing NEXUSS CDT improved estimates of horizontal heat fluxes in this rapidly changing region.


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