Internal Wave Driven Mixing in the Ocean: Governing Processes and Consequences for Climate

Schematic diagram of internal mixing Schematic diagram of internal mixing

Winds blowing over the ocean’s surface and tides flowing over rough bathymetry can produce oceanic internal waves that can propagate horizontally as well as vertically until they break and turbulently mix the water. Even though this mixing occurs on centimeter scales, it has global consequences for the ocean’s density structure, circulation, and surface properties. I will review what we currently know about the mechanisms, geography, and consequences of internal wave driven mixing in the ocean. Throughout the review I will highlight recent work on the role of mesoscale currents in wind-driven internal wave mixing, the vertical structure of mixing in the ocean, and mixing in a changing climate.