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Detecting changes at the leading edge of an interface between oceanic water layers

Tang, Qunshu; Tong, Vincent C.H.; Hobbs, Richard W.; Morales Maqueda, Miguel Ángel

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Qunshu Tang

Vincent C.H. Tong

Richard W. Hobbs

Miguel Ángel Morales Maqueda


Many physical phenomena in the ocean involve interactions between water masses of different temperatures and salinities at boundaries. Of particular interest is the characterisation of finescale structure at the marginal interaction zones of these boundaries, where the structure is either destroyed by mixing or formed by stratification. Using high-resolution seismic reflection imaging, we present observations of temporal changes at the leading edge of an interface between sub-thermocline layers in the Panama Basin. By studying time-lapse images of a seismic reflector between two water boundaries with subtle differences, we provide empirical constraints on how stratified layers evolve. The leading edge of this reflector, which is characterised by a gradual lateral decrease in vertical temperature contrast (|ΔT|), increases in length over ~3 days coupled with an increase in |ΔT|. A critical mixing state, in which turbulent diffusion is gradually replaced by double-diffusion as the dominant mixing process, is thus revealed.


Tang, Q., Tong, V. C., Hobbs, R. W., & Morales Maqueda, M. Á. (2019). Detecting changes at the leading edge of an interface between oceanic water layers. Nature Communications, 10(1), Article 4674.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Sep 13, 2019
Online Publication Date Oct 14, 2019
Publication Date Oct 14, 2019
Deposit Date Oct 25, 2019
Publicly Available Date Oct 25, 2019
Journal Nature Communications
Publisher Nature Research
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 10
Issue 1
Article Number 4674


Published Journal Article (2.9 Mb)

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© The Author(s) 2019. This article is licensed under a Creative Commons<br /> Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing,<br /> adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give<br /> appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative<br /> Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party<br /> material in this article are included in the article’s Creative Commons license, unless<br /> indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the<br /> article’s Creative Commons license and your intended use is not permitted by statutory<br /> regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from<br /> the copyright holder. To view a copy of this license, visit<br /> licenses/by/4.0/.

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