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Scientists with Hawaii ocean mixing experiment

Scientists from six institutions, including Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego, are closing the gap in deciphering one of the most puzzling aspects of the world's oceans. "Ocean mixing," the complex motions of seawater that span large-scale phenomena down to tiny, centimeter-sized turbulent motion, serves a key role in redistributing heat throughout the oceans. Although ocean mixing is a key element in the climate system and important for sea life for dispersing nutrients, a mystery remains in accounting for how its processes unfold. A new research paper in the journal Science describes ocean mixing in unprecedented detail.

Using an array of technologies and instruments, scientists in the Hawaii Ocean-Mixing Experiment (HOME), a nearly $18 million National Science Foundation-sponsored project focused on pinpointing, dissecting, and analyzing ocean mixing, captured intriguing phenomena including undersea waves that spanned nearly 1,000 feet.

The paper in the July 18 issue of Science is the first effort by HOME investigators to collectively document their findings. The HOME scientists chose the Hawaiian Ridge, a 1,600-mile largely submerged volcanic mountain chain that stretches from the Big Island of Hawaii to Midway Island, due to its rough topography, including large underwater mountains and valleys. Such areas are sometimes referred to as the "stirring rods" of the oceans.

Prior to the HOME project, areas such as the Hawaiian Ridge were hypothesized to be a major energy pathway for ocean mixing turbulence.

Traveling across the Pacific, oceanic tides crash upon the Hawaiian Ridge and dissipate. To help explain how such areas help mix warm low latitude waters and cool polar waters, HOME investigators undertook a comprehensive survey to track the cascade of ocean energy and turbulence.

"One of the triumphs of the HOME experiment was being able to measure the cascade from thousand
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Contact: Mario Aguilera
scrippsnews@ucsd.edu
858-534-3624
University of California - San Diego
17-Jul-2003


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