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Journal Article

Convective mixing and the thermohaline circulation

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Marotzke, J., & Scott, J. (1999). Convective mixing and the thermohaline circulation. Journal of Physical Oceanography, 29(11), 2962-2970. doi:10.1175/1520-0485(1999)029<2962:CMATTC>2.0.CO;2.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-0014-3AE5-7
An idealized three-dimensional model of buoyancy-driven flow in a single hemisphere is used to investigate the relationship between the meridional overturning and the efficiency by which convective mixing eliminates static instability. In the "fast" limit (mixing timescale hours to weeks), the meridional overturning is not rate limited by the efficiency of convective mixing. If convective mixing is made less efficient. the model's meridional overturning strength increases. Moreover, the dominant downwelling occurs not at the highest surface density; hence the deep ocean is relatively buoyant. The numerical results are explained by the different influences of convective mixing and downward advection on the deep-ocean heat budget; they underscore the fundamentally three-dimensional nature of the meridional overturning. In addition, the narrowness of deep downwelling is related to the geostrophic dynamics of deep temperature anomalies near the eastern wall. The model results presented here are in contrast to the expectation that deep-water formation by convective mixing is a necessary, if not rate-limiting, ingredient to the existence of a thermohaline circulation.