Comparison of deep-ocean finescale shear at two sites along the Mid-Atlantic Ridge Academic Article uri icon


  • Four drifting floats were used to measure the magnitude of the vertical derivative of horizontal velocity in waters above the rough bathymetry of the Mid Atlantic Ridge. This derivative is typically the dominant component of the velocity gradient (the shear). Two floats were at the site of the Brazil Basin Tracer Release Experiment (BBTRE) in the South Atlantic, and two were near the site of the Guiana Abyssal Gyre Experiment (GAGE) in the North Atlantic. Floats operated for one year except for one BBTRE float which operated for 100 days. Shear was measured over a vertical span of 9.5 m using drag elements that caused the floats to rotate slowly in response to shear. For each float, the first, second and fourth moments of shear were elevated above levels associated with the Garrett-Munk model internal-wave spectrum. Three of the four floats were tracked as they moved over mountainous terrain, allowing shear intensity to be measured as a function of height above the bottom. A deep BBTRE float showed enhancement of rms shear near the bottom. Floats at both areas provided measurements at 2000 m above the bottom, with differing results: The GAGE site had a lower fourth moment of shear (diapycnal diffusivity proxy) than the BBTRE site. However, application of normalization factors accounting for differences between the sites in bottom roughness, latitude-dependent internal-wave dynamics, and tidal current speeds brings the results into agreement.

publication date

  • January 2006