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An Assessment of the Southern Ocean Mixed Layer Heat Budget

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  • 1 Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, California
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Abstract

The mixed layer heat balance in the Southern Ocean is examined by combining remotely sensed measurements and in situ observations from 1 June 2002 to 31 May 2006, coinciding with the period during which Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer-Earth Observing System (EOS) (AMSR-E) sea surface temperature measurements are available. Temperature/salinity profiles from Argo floats are used to derive the mixed layer depth. All terms in the heat budget are estimated directly from available data. The domain-averaged terms of oceanic heat advection, entrainment, diffusion, and air–sea flux are largely consistent with the evolution of the mixed layer temperature. The mixed layer temperature undergoes a strong seasonal cycle, which is largely attributed to the air–sea heat fluxes. Entrainment plays a secondary role. Oceanic advection also experiences a seasonal cycle, although it is relatively weak. Most of the seasonal variations in the advection term come from the Ekman advection, in contrast with western boundary current regions where geostrophic advection controls the total advection. Substantial imbalances exist in the regional heat budgets, especially near the northern boundary of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current. The biggest contributor to the surface heat budget error is thought to be the air–sea heat fluxes, because only limited Southern Hemisphere data are available for the reanalysis products, and hence these fluxes have large uncertainties. In particular, the lack of in situ measurements during winter is of fundamental concern. Sensitivity tests suggest that a proper representation of the mixed layer depth is important to close the budget. Salinity influences the stratification in the Southern Ocean; temperature alone provides an imperfect estimate of mixed layer depth and, because of this, also an imperfect estimate of the temperature of water entrained into the mixed layer from below.

* Current affiliation: CIMAS/RSMAS, University of Miami, Miami, Florida

Corresponding author address: Shenfu Dong, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UCSD, 9500 Gilman Dr., Mail Code 0230, La Jolla, CA 92093-0230. Email: shenfu.dong@noaa.gov

Abstract

The mixed layer heat balance in the Southern Ocean is examined by combining remotely sensed measurements and in situ observations from 1 June 2002 to 31 May 2006, coinciding with the period during which Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer-Earth Observing System (EOS) (AMSR-E) sea surface temperature measurements are available. Temperature/salinity profiles from Argo floats are used to derive the mixed layer depth. All terms in the heat budget are estimated directly from available data. The domain-averaged terms of oceanic heat advection, entrainment, diffusion, and air–sea flux are largely consistent with the evolution of the mixed layer temperature. The mixed layer temperature undergoes a strong seasonal cycle, which is largely attributed to the air–sea heat fluxes. Entrainment plays a secondary role. Oceanic advection also experiences a seasonal cycle, although it is relatively weak. Most of the seasonal variations in the advection term come from the Ekman advection, in contrast with western boundary current regions where geostrophic advection controls the total advection. Substantial imbalances exist in the regional heat budgets, especially near the northern boundary of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current. The biggest contributor to the surface heat budget error is thought to be the air–sea heat fluxes, because only limited Southern Hemisphere data are available for the reanalysis products, and hence these fluxes have large uncertainties. In particular, the lack of in situ measurements during winter is of fundamental concern. Sensitivity tests suggest that a proper representation of the mixed layer depth is important to close the budget. Salinity influences the stratification in the Southern Ocean; temperature alone provides an imperfect estimate of mixed layer depth and, because of this, also an imperfect estimate of the temperature of water entrained into the mixed layer from below.

* Current affiliation: CIMAS/RSMAS, University of Miami, Miami, Florida

Corresponding author address: Shenfu Dong, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UCSD, 9500 Gilman Dr., Mail Code 0230, La Jolla, CA 92093-0230. Email: shenfu.dong@noaa.gov

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