Motion, Commotion, and Biophysical Connections at Deep Ocean Seamounts

Lavelle, J.W.; Mohn, C.

Oceanography 23(1): 90-103


ISSN/ISBN: 1042-8275
DOI: 10.5670/oceanog.2010.64
Accession: 068510078

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Seamounts attract the attention of physical oceanographers for a variety of reasons: seamounts play a special role in ocean biology; they may be hydrothermally and magmatically active and thereby feed the ocean with heat, chemical constituents, and microbes; they help convert ocean tidal energy into smaller-length waves and turbulence that affect the ocean locally and globally; and they act, in effect, as sources and sinks of ocean eddies. From a physical oceanographic perspective, the interaction of passing ocean flows with seamount topography is rich in outcomes. That richness originates in the global variability of seamount height and shape, seamount latitude, local ocean stratification, the amplitude and time dependence of the passing flow, as well as many secondary factors, such as proximity to neighboring topography. All these together determine the nature of the circulation, local hydrographic distributions, turbulence, and transport around a seamount. Here we summarize important concepts of ocean physics at seamounts and recount some of the settings in which this physics plays out. Selected aspects of biophysical coupling are also highlighted, particularly the loss and retention of particles, which are connected to a seamount's ability to sustain biological and biologically important property distributions in the face of impinging flows.