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Nat Commun. 2013;4:2419. doi: 10.1038/ncomms3419.

Pacific deep circulation and ventilation controlled by tidal mixing away from the sea bottom.

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Atmosphere and Ocean Research Institute, University of Tokyo, 5-1-5 Kashiwanoha, Kashiwa 277-8568, Japan.


Vertical mixing in the ocean is a key driver of the global ocean thermohaline circulation, one of the most important factors controlling past and future climate change. Prior observational and theoretical studies have focused on intense tidal mixing near the sea bottom (near-field mixing). However, ocean general circulation models that employ a parameterization of near-field mixing significantly underestimate the strength of the Pacific thermohaline circulation. Here we demonstrate that tidally induced mixing away from the sea bottom (far-field mixing) is essential in controlling the Pacific thermohaline circulation. Via the addition of far-field mixing to a widely used tidal parameterization, we successfully simulate the Pacific thermohaline circulation. We also propose that far-field mixing is indispensable for explaining the presence of the world ocean's oldest water in the eastern North Pacific Ocean. Our findings suggest that far-field mixing controls ventilation of the deep Pacific Ocean, a process important for ocean carbon and biogeochemical cycles.

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