PerspectiveOcean Science

Ocean Mixing in 10 Steps

Science  29 Apr 2005:
Vol. 308, Issue 5722, pp. 641-642
DOI: 10.1126/science.1111417

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Summary

Since the 1990s, three large-scale experiments involving the release of the nearly inert chemical sulfur hexafluoride into the open ocean have shed light on how ocean waters mix. In his Perspective, Merryfield reviews the insights gained from these studies. He highlights the report by Schmitt et al . of the results from the third study, which focused on ocean mixing in the upper tropical Atlantic, immediately east of the Caribbean. In this region, "salt fingers" play an important role in ocean mixing; the resulting mixing rate is intermediate between those observed in the earlier studies. The results help to achieve a fuller understanding of ocean mixing, which is crucial for understanding and modeling ocean circulation.