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Adiabatic density surfaces – the only truly neutral surfaces

Rui Huang
South China Sea Institute of oceanology
(Abstract received 12/15/2010 for session X)

A new family of surface, the adiabatic density surface, is introduced for the world ocean. This surface is defined as the depth at which the given water parcel can arrive through adiabatic movements, without changing its salinity and entropy. For a water parcel taken at a given station and pressure level, the corresponding adiabatic surface can be defined through very simple calculation. This family of surface is the only neutrally buoyant surface in the world ocean, and other surfaces different from this family of surface are not truly neutrally buoyant. However, even on this surface, only the water parcel sits on the origin can travel to other parts of this surface. Other water parcels sitting on locations other than the origin of this surface cannot exchange their positions through adiabatic and isentropic movements. If two water parcels on this surface exchange their position, the total gravitational potential energy in the ocean must be changed. In this sense, thus, neutral surfaces on which parcels can freely exchange their positions do not exist in the world ocean. The similarity and differences of the adiabatic density surface, the potential density surface, and the so-called neutral density surface are compared in details.

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2011 LOM Workshop, Miami, Florida February 7 - 9, 2011