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Durham University

Department of Earth Sciences


Publication details for Professor Richard Hobbs

Tang, Qunshu, Tong, Vincent C. H., Hobbs, Richard W. & Morales Maqueda, Miguel Ángel (2019). Detecting changes at the leading edge of an interface between oceanic water layers. Nature Communications 10(1): 4674.

Author(s) from Durham


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.