A model of the zonally averaged stratification and overturning in the Southern Ocean

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Journal of Physical Oceanography
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The ocean area south of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC) frontal system is a region of major watermass modification. Influx of North Atlantic Deep Water (NADW), small-scale mixing, eddy transport and diffusion, as well as the fluxes of momentum and buoyancy at the sea surface combine in a complex array of processes to generate the unique stratification of the Southern Ocean with its southward uprising isopycnals and northward flux of Antarctic Intermediate Water (AAIW) and Antarctic Bottom Water. Comprehensive analytical models of this scenario are rare. The authors develop and apply a model based on zonally and temporally averaged theory to explain the conversion of NADW into AAIW with all of the aforementioned processes contained in an extremely simplified way. Eddies appear via a transformed Eulerian mean (TEM) approach with a conventional downgradient parameterization of the meridional density flux. The structure of the eddy coefficient is estimated from hydrographic and wind stress data by a simple inverse approach. Mixing is limited to a near-surface layer and is treated in a most simple entrainment form. The model determines the zonal mean density stratification in the Southern Ocean and the baroclinic transport of the ACC from the applied wind stress and the surface density flux and unravels the role and importance of the different processes responsible for shaping the stratification (Ekman and eddy-induced advection and pumping, mixing, surface buoyancy flux, and eddy-induced diffusion). All of these processes must be present to yield an agreement between the simulated stratification and the observed one, but details of their parameterization might not be too critical. The ACC transport is shown to have a contribution forced by the local wind stress as well as another contribution relating to the nonlocal forcing by wind stress and density flux over the entire Antarctic zone.


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