The role of cabbeling and double diffusion in setting the density of the North Pacific intermediate water salinity minimum

Citation:
Talley, LD, Yun JY.  2001.  The role of cabbeling and double diffusion in setting the density of the North Pacific intermediate water salinity minimum. Journal of Physical Oceanography. 31:1538-1549.

Keywords:

interface, region, salt fingers

Abstract:

The top of the North Pacific Intermediate Water (NPIW) in the subtropical North Pacific is identified with the main salinity minimum in the density range sigma (theta) = 26.7-26.8. The most likely source of low salinity for the NPIW salinity minimum is the Oyashio winter mixed layer, of density sigma (theta) = 26.5- 26.65. The Oyashio waters mix with Kuroshio waters in the broad region known as the Mixed Water Region (MWR), between the separated Kuroshio and Oyashio Fronts just east of Japan. It is shown that cabbeling during mixing of the cold, fresh Oyashio winter mixed layer water with the warm, saline Kuroshio water increases the density of the mixture by up to sigma (theta) = 0.07 at densities around sigma (theta) = 26.6-26.65, regardless of the mixing mechanism. Thus cabbeling accounts for about half of the observed density difference between the Oyashio winter mixed layer water and the top of the NPIW. Double diffusion during mixing of the interleaving layers of Oyashio and Kuroshio waters in the MWR can also change the density of the mixing intrusions. Density ratios favorable to double diffusion are shown to be especially prominent in Oyashio intrusions into a Kuroshio warm core ring in the 1989 data examined here. The average potential temperature-salinity profile of the new subtropical NPIW just east of the MWR, with its nearly uniform salinity, suggests the dominance of salt fingering over diffusive layering. Using the observed salinity and density differences between Oyashio surface water and the NPIW salinity minimum, after subtracting the density difference ascribed to cabbeling, an effective flux ratio of about 0.8 is estimated for possible double diffusive processes in the MWR.

Notes:

n/a

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DOI:

10.1175/1520-0485(2001)031<1538:trocad>2.0.co;2