• Open Access

Dense bottom layers in the Scotia Sea, Southern Ocean: Creation, lifespan, and destruction


Corresponding author: M. P. Meredith, British Antarctic Survey, High Cross, Madingley Rd., Cambridge, CB3 0ET, UK. (mmm@bas.ac.uk)


[1] The lower limb of the Atlantic overturning circulation is renewed by dense waters from the Southern Ocean, a substantial portion of which flow through the Scotia Sea. We report dense bottom layers here, with gradients in temperature and salinity comparable to those seen near the surface of the Southern Ocean. These are overlain by layers with much weaker stratification, and are caused by episodic overflows of dense waters across the South Scotia Ridge, and topographic trapping within deep trenches. One such layer was found to be at least 3–4 years older than the water immediately above. The estimated vertical diffusivity to which this layer was subject is substantially less than the strong basin-average deep mixing reported previously. We conjecture that (a) vertical mixing in the Scotia Sea is strongly spatially inhomogeneous, and (b) the flushing of these layers, like their formation, is related to overflow events, and hence also strongly episodic.