Diapycnal mixing plays an important role in both physical and biogeochemical processes in the oceans, yet the rate of tracer mixing has not been adequately quantified. A theoretical analysis predicts that diapycnal mixing should raise the saturation state of noble gases in the thermocline, at a rate proportional to diapycnal diffusivity. We apply this theory to existing measurements of argon in the ventilated thermocline, where the increase in the saturation state should be proportional to the integrated effect of diapycnal mixing. Combining argon observations from time-series stations in the North Pacific with freon ventilation age, we tentatively estimate the regional diapycnal diffusivity at 0.35 ± 0.21 10-4 m2s-1. Major sources of uncertainty include spatial and temporal variability and sparse sampling. These uncertainties could be significantly reduced using measurements of several noble gases in a transect from the isopycnal outcrop to the interior gyre.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- General Earth and Planetary Sciences