Effects of marine animals on ocean turbulence/mixing

Via Wired (here)


The fluid dynamics of swimming jellyfish have provided a plausible mechanism for a once-wild notion: that marine animals, hidden from sight and ignored by geophysicists, may stir Earth’s oceans with as much force as its wind and tides.

Called induced fluid drift, it involves the tendency of liquid to “stick” to a body as it moves through water — and a little bit of drift could add up quickly on a global scale.

“The mere act of swimming implies that some water travels with the swimmer,” said CalTech engineer Kakani Katija, co-author of the study in Nature Wednesday. “Drift applies to all animals, to anything with a body.”

That the mere motion of animals could play a profound role in water-column commingling was once considered absurd. The sea would surely absorb the force of a flapping fin, to say nothing of a phytoplankton’s flagellae. It was a basic principle of friction, applied to water.

Seems logical, and thus surprising that no one has really considered/studied this before. What is interesting is the order(s) of magnitude involved and from a climate and oceanographic and weather predicting perspective how would one include the sheer amount of actors/factors that would need to be modeled.



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