Brief Communication | Published:


Vertical mixing in the ocean

Naturevolume 409page37 (2001) | Download Citation



The thermohaline circulation of the ocean results primarily from downwelling at sites in the Nordic and Labrador Seas and upwelling throughout the rest of the ocean. The latter is often described as being due to breaking internal waves. Here we reconcile the difference between theoretical and observed estimates of vertical mixing in the deep ocean by presenting a revised view of the thermohaline circulation, which allows for additional upwelling in the Southern Ocean and the separation of the North Atlantic Deep Water cell from the Antarctic Bottom Water cell. The changes also mean that much less wind and tidal energy needs to be dissipated in the deep ocean than was originally thought.

Access optionsAccess options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.


All prices are NET prices.


  1. 1

    Munk, W. H. Deep-Sea Res. 13, 707–730 (1966).

  2. 2

    Munk, W. H. & Wunsch, C. Deep-Sea Res. 45, 1977–2010 (1998).

  3. 3

    Gregg, M. C. J. Geophys. Res. 94, 9686–9698 (1989).

  4. 4

    Ledwell, J. R., Watson, A. J. & Law, C. S. J. Geophys. Res. 103, 21499 –21529 (1998).

  5. 5

    Polzin, K. et al. Science 276, 93–96 (1997).

  6. 6

    Wunsch, C. Nature 405, 743–744 ( 2000).

  7. 7

    Toggweiler, J. R. & Samuels, B. J. Phys. Oceanogr. 28, 1832–1852 ( 1998).

  8. 8

    Döös, K. & Coward, A. C. Int. WOCE Newslett. 27, 3–4 (1997 ).

  9. 9

    Foster, T. D. & Carmack, E. C. Deep-Sea Res. 23, 301–317 (1976).

  10. 10

    Schmitz, W. J. Rev. Geophys. 33, 151–173 (1995).

Download references

Author information


  1. Southampton Oceanography Centre, Empress Dock, Southampton, SO14 3ZH, UK

    • D. J. Webb
  2. Center for Climate System Research, University of Tokyo, 4-6-1 Komaba, Meguro-ku, 153-8904, Tokyo, Japan

    • N. Suginohara


  1. Search for D. J. Webb in:

  2. Search for N. Suginohara in:

About this article

Publication history

Issue Date


Further reading


By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.