Oceanography > Issues > Archive > Volume 25, Issue 1

2012, Oceanography 25(1):277–283, http://dx.doi.org/10.5670/oceanog.2012.26

The Prediction, Verification, and Significance of Flank Jets
at Mid-Ocean Ridges

Authors | Abstract | Full Article | Citation | References


J. William Lavelle | National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory, Seattle, WA, USA

Andreas M. Thurnherr | Division of Ocean and Climate Physics, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Palisades, NY, USA

Lauren S. Mullineaux | Biology Department, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, MA, USA

Dennis J. McGillicuddy Jr. | Applied Ocean Physics and Engineering Department, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, MA, USA

James R. Ledwell | Applied Ocean Physics and Engineering Department, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, MA, USA



One aspect of ocean flow over mid-ocean ridges that has escaped much attention is the capacity of a ridge to convert oscillatory flows into unidirectional flows. Those unidirectional flows take the form of relatively narrow jets hugging the ridge's flanks. In the Northern Hemisphere, the jets move heat and dissolved and particulate matter poleward on the west and equatorward on the east of north-south trending ridges. Recent measurements and a model of flow at the East Pacific Rise at 9–10°N show that these ridge-parallel flows can extend 10–15 km horizontally away from the ridge axis, reach from the seafloor to several hundreds of meters above ridge crest depth, and have maximum speeds in their cores up to 10 cm s–1. Because of their along-ridge orientation and speed, the jets can significantly affect the transport of hydrothermal vent-associated larvae between vent oases along the ridge crest and, possibly, contribute to the mesoscale stirring of the abyssal ocean. Because jet-formation mechanisms involve oscillatory currents, ocean stratification, and topography, the jets are examples of "stratified topographic flow rectification." Ridge jets have parallels in rectified flows at seamounts and submarine banks.


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