TERRAPUB Journal of Oceanography

Journal of Oceanography, Vol. 60 (No. 2), pp. 411-423, 2004

Tidal Mixing in the Kuril Straits and Its Impact on Ventilation in the North Pacific Ocean

Tomohiro Nakamura*, Takahiro Toyoda, Yoichi Ishikawa and Toshiyuki Awaji

Department of Geophysics, Graduate School of Science, Kyoto University, Kyoto 606-8502, Japan

(Received 19 February 2003; in revised form 30 August 2003; accepted 28 September 2003)

Abstract: A numerical study using a 3-D nonhydrostatic model has been applied to baroclinic processes generated by the K1 tidal flow in and around the Kuril Straits. The result shows that large-amplitude unsteady lee waves are generated and cause intense diapycnal mixing all along the Kuril Island Chain to levels of a maximum diapycnal diffusivity exceeding 103 cm-1s2. Significant water transformation by the vigorous mixing in shallow regions produces the distinct density and potential vorticity (PV) fronts along the Island Chain. The pinched-off eddies that arise and move away from the fronts have the ability to transport a large amount of mixed water (~14 Sv) to the offshore regions, roughly half being directed to the North Pacific. These features are consistent with recent satellite imagery and in-situ observations, suggesting that diapycnal mixing within the vicinity of the Kuril Islands has a greater impact than was previously supposed on the Okhotsk Sea and the North Pacific. To examine this influence of tidal processes at the Kurils on circulations in the neighboring two basins, another numerical experiment was conducted using an ocean general circulation model with inclusion of tidal mixing along the islands, which gives a better representation of the Okhotsk Sea Mode Water than in the case without the tidal mixing. This is mainly attributed to the added effect of a significant upward salt flux into the surface layer due to tidal mixing in the Kuril Straits, which is subsequently transported to the interior region of the Okhotsk Sea. With a saline flux into the surface layer, cooling in winter in the northern part of the Okhotsk Sea can produce heavier water and thus enhance subduction, which is capable of reproducing a realistic Okhotsk Sea Mode Water. The associated low PV flux from the Kuril Straits to the open North Pacific excites the 2nd baroclinic-mode Kelvin and Rossby waves in addition to the 1st mode. Interestingly, the meridional overturning in the North Pacific is strengthened as a result of the dynamical adjustment caused by these waves, leading to a more realistic reproduction of the North Pacific Intermediate Water (NPIW) than in the case without tidal mixing. Accordingly, the joint effect of tidally-induced transport and transformation dominating in the Kuril Straits and subsequent eddy-transport is considered to play an important role in the ventilation of both the Okhotsk Sea and the North Pacific Ocean.

*Corresponding author E-mail: nakamura@kugi.kyoto-u.ac.jp

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