Turbulent kinetic energy dissipation rate and associated fluxes in the western tropical Atlantic estimated from ocean glider observations

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Ocean gliders enable us to collect the high-resolution microstructure observations necessary to calculate the dissipation rate of turbulent kinetic energy, ε, on timescales of weeks to months: far longer than is normally possible using traditional ship-based platforms. Slocum gliders have previously been used to this end; here, we report the first detailed estimates of ε calculated using the Batchelor spectrum method on observations collected by a FP07 fast thermistor mounted on a Seaglider. We use these same fast thermistor observations to calculate ε following the Thorpe scale method and find very good agreement between the two methods. The Thorpe scale method yields larger values of ε, but the average difference, which is less than an order of magnitude, is smaller than reported elsewhere. The spatio-temporal distribution of ε is comparable for both methods. Maximum values of ε (10−7 W kg−1) are observed in the surface mixed layer; values of approximately 10−9 W kg−1 are observed between approximately 200 and 500 m depth. These two layers are separated by a 100 m thick layer of low ε (10−10 W kg−1), which is co-located with a high-salinity layer of Subtropical Underwater and a peak in the strength of stratification. We calculate the turbulent heat and salt fluxes associated with the observed turbulence. Between 200 and 500 m, ε induces downward fluxes of both properties that, if typical of the annual average, would have a very small influence on the heat and salt content of the overlying salinity-maximum layer. We compare these turbulent fluxes with two estimates of double-diffusive fluxes that occur in regions susceptible to salt fingers, such as the western tropical Atlantic. We find that the double-diffusive fluxes of both heat and salt are larger than the corresponding turbulent fluxes.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)77-92
Number of pages16
JournalOcean Science
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 24 Jan 2023

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