Formation of southern hemisphere thermocline waters: Water mass conversion and subduction

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Journal of Physical Oceanography
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The ventilation of the permanent thermocline of the Southern Hemisphere gyres is quantified using climatological and synoptic observational data. Ventilation is estimated with three independent methods: the kinematic method provides subduction rates from the vertical and horizontal fluxes through the base of the mixed layer, the water age uses in situ age distribution of thermocline waters, and the annual-mean water mass formation through air-sea interaction is calculated. All three independent estimates agree within their error bars, which are admittedly large. The subduction rates are mainly controlled through their vertical and lateral components with only minor transient eddy contributions. The vertical transfer, derived from Ekman pumping, ventilates over most of the areas of the subtropical gyres, while lateral transfer occurs mainly along the Subtropical and Subantarctic Fronts, where it injects mode and intermediate waters. For the permanent thermocline the overall ventilation of the South Atlantic is about 21 Sv (Sv = 10(6) m(3) s(-1)). Of this, lateral transfer contributes 10 Sv, mainly in the Brazil-Malvinas confluence zone and to the northeast of Drake Passage. The effective vertical transfer at the bottom of the mixed layer is only two-thirds of the Ekman pumping due to strong northward forcing of the mixed layer itself. The Indian Ocean is ventilated at a rate of 35 Sv with equal lateral and vertical contributions. The South Pacific's overall ventilation is 44 Sv of which the lateral input contributes little more than half. West of 130degreesW, the South Pacific is ventilated through Ekman pumping and with only minor lateral transfer. In the east lateral transfer dominates between 10degrees and 20degreesS and along the Subantarctic Front in a narrow density range. Combining overall transports with earlier estimates for the Northern Hemisphere gives a ventilation of the World Ocean's permanent thermocline of about 160 Sv. Analysis of atmospheric reanalysis air-sea flux data reveals an overall increase in the formation of thermocline waters for all three Southern Hemisphere oceans.


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