The transport from the upper mixed layer into the pycnocline of particles with negative buoyancy is considered. Assuming the hydrodynamic parameters to be time- independent, an adjoint model is resorted to that provides a general expression of the residence time in the mixed layer of the constituent under study. It is seen that the residence time decreases as the settling velocity increases or the diffusivity decreases. Furthermore, it is demonstrated that the residence time must be larger than z/w and smaller than h/w, where z, h and w denote the distance to the pycnocline, the thickness of the mixed layer and the sinking velocity. In the vicinity of the pycnocline, the residence time is not necessarily zero; its behaviour critically depends on the eddy diffusivity profile in this region. Closed-form solutions are obtained for constant and quadratic diffusivity profiles, which allows for an analysis of the sensitivity of the residence time to the Peclet number. Finally, an approximate value is suggested of the depth-averaged value of the residence time.
Keywords: adjoint model - mixed layer - pycnocline - residence time - settling