Southern Ocean Thermocline Ventilation Academic Article uri icon


  • Abstract An approximate mass (volume) budget in the surface layer of the Southern Ocean is used to investigate the intensity and regional variability of the ventilation process, discussed here in terms of subduction and upwelling. Ventilation resulting from Ekman pumping is estimated from satellite winds, the geostrophic mean component is assessed from a climatology strengthened with Argo data, and the eddy-induced advection is included via the parameterization of Gent and McWilliams, together with eddy mixing estimates. All three components contribute significantly to ventilation. Finally, the seasonal cycle of the upper ocean is resolved using Argo data. The circumpolar-averaged circulation shows an upwelling in the Antarctic Intermediate Water (AAIW) density classes, which is carried north into a zone of dense Subantarctic Mode Water (SAMW) subduction. Although no consistent net production is found in the light SAMW density classes, a large subduction of Subtropical Mode Water (STMW) is observed. The STMW area is fed by convergence of a southward and a northward residual meridional circulation. The eddy-induced contribution is important for the water mass transport in the vicinity of the Antartic Circumpolar Current. It balances the horizontal northward Ekman transport as well as the vertical Ekman pumping. While the circumpolar-averaged upper cell structure is consistent with the average surface fluxes, it hides strong longitudinal regional variations and does not represent any local regime. Subduction shows strong regional variability with bathymetrically constrained hotspots of large subduction. These hotspots are consistent with the interior potential vorticity structure and circulation in the thermocline. Pools of SAMW and AAIW of different densities are found along the circumpolar belt in association with the regional pattern of subduction and interior circulation.

publication date

  • March 1, 2010