Temperature Gradient above the Deep-Sea Floor

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AT sufficient ocean depths (several km) there is an increase of temperature with depth corresponding to the adiabatic lapse rate Γ ≈ 10−6 °C/cm. Toward the bottom, the gradient becomes increasingly superadiabatic, because the water is heated from below by a geothermal heat flux H. Because H is small (10−6 calories cm−2 s−1), only a slight superadiabatic effect is expected: |dT/dz| < 2Γ at elevation z > 1 m. Measurements of hyperadiabatic gradients (|dT/dz| = 10–1,000 Γ) several metres, or even tens of metres, above the bottom have been reported1–4, though it seems inconceivable that a strongly unstable layer several metres thick can persist. The experiment described here indicates that |dT/dz| = 1.3 Γ at z 1 m.

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WIMBUSH, M. Temperature Gradient above the Deep-Sea Floor. Nature 227, 1041–1043 (1970) doi:10.1038/2271041b0

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