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Free Content Some historical, theoretical and applied aspects of quantitative water mass analysis

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The concept of water masses is reviewed from the point of view of quantitative water mass analysis. A theoretical framework is presented which describes the life history of water masses in terms of formation, consolidation, aging and decay. Water masses are described as physical entities and compared with their atmospheric counterparts (air masses).

The classical temperature-salinity diagram is expanded into the mathematical concept of water types in an n-dimensional parameter space. Water types and their standard deviations are introduced as the foundation for quantitative water mass analysis. The relationship between parameter space and physical space is established through the definition of water type density. Mode Waters are discussed as regions in physical space with a minimum in water type density. Some unresolved issues of the structure of the oceanic thermocline are discussed in this context.

The definition of water masses is extended to include water masses in the surface mixed layer where air-sea exchange processes continuously modify water mass properties. The paper concludes with a brief discussion of the representation of water masses and their evolution in numerical models.

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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: March 1, 1999

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  • The Journal of Marine Research, one of the oldest journals in American marine science, publishes peer-reviewed research articles covering a broad array of topics in physical, biological and chemical oceanography. Articles that deal with processes, as well as those that report significant observations, are welcome. Biological studies involving coupling between ecological and physical processes are preferred over those that report systematics. The editors strive always to serve authors and readers in the academic oceanographic community by publishing papers vital to the marine research in the long and rich tradition of the Sears Foundation for Marine Research. We welcome you to the Journal of Marine Research.
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