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Multidecadal Changes in Southern Ocean Ventilation since the 1960s Driven by Wind and Buoyancy Forcing

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  • 1 GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel, Kiel, Germany
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Abstract

Enhanced Southern Ocean ventilation in recent decades has been suggested to be a relevant modulator of the observed changes in ocean heat and carbon uptake. This study focuses on the Southern Ocean midlatitude ventilation changes from the 1960s to the 2010s. A global 1/4° configuration of the NEMO–Louvain-la-Neuve sea ice model, version 2 (LIM2), including the inert tracer CFC-12 (a proxy of ocean ventilation) is forced with the CORE, phase II (CORE-II), and JRA-55 driving ocean (JRA55-do) atmospheric reanalyses. Sensitivity experiments, where the variability of wind stress and/or the buoyancy forcing is suppressed on interannual time scales, are used to unravel the mechanisms driving ventilation changes. Ventilation changes are estimated by comparing CFC-12 interior inventories among the different experiments. All simulations suggest a multidecadal fluctuation of Southern Ocean ventilation, with a decrease until the 1980s–90s and a subsequent increase. This evolution is related to the atmospheric forcing and is caused by the (often counteracting) effects of wind stress and buoyancy forcing. Until the 1980s, increased buoyancy gains caused the ventilation decrease, whereas the subsequent ventilation increase was driven by strengthened wind stress causing deeper mixed layers and a stronger meridional overturning circulation. Wind stress emerges as the main driver of ventilation changes, even though buoyancy forcing modulates its trend and decadal variability. The three Southern Ocean basins take up CFC-12 in distinct density intervals but overall respond similarly to the atmospheric forcing. This study suggests that Southern Ocean ventilation is expected to increase as long as the effect of increasing Southern Hemisphere wind stress overwhelms that of increased stratification.

Supplemental information related to this paper is available at the Journals Online website: https://doi.org/10.1175/JCLI-D-19-0947.s1.

© 2021 American Meteorological Society. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: Lavinia Patara, lpatara@geomar.de

Abstract

Enhanced Southern Ocean ventilation in recent decades has been suggested to be a relevant modulator of the observed changes in ocean heat and carbon uptake. This study focuses on the Southern Ocean midlatitude ventilation changes from the 1960s to the 2010s. A global 1/4° configuration of the NEMO–Louvain-la-Neuve sea ice model, version 2 (LIM2), including the inert tracer CFC-12 (a proxy of ocean ventilation) is forced with the CORE, phase II (CORE-II), and JRA-55 driving ocean (JRA55-do) atmospheric reanalyses. Sensitivity experiments, where the variability of wind stress and/or the buoyancy forcing is suppressed on interannual time scales, are used to unravel the mechanisms driving ventilation changes. Ventilation changes are estimated by comparing CFC-12 interior inventories among the different experiments. All simulations suggest a multidecadal fluctuation of Southern Ocean ventilation, with a decrease until the 1980s–90s and a subsequent increase. This evolution is related to the atmospheric forcing and is caused by the (often counteracting) effects of wind stress and buoyancy forcing. Until the 1980s, increased buoyancy gains caused the ventilation decrease, whereas the subsequent ventilation increase was driven by strengthened wind stress causing deeper mixed layers and a stronger meridional overturning circulation. Wind stress emerges as the main driver of ventilation changes, even though buoyancy forcing modulates its trend and decadal variability. The three Southern Ocean basins take up CFC-12 in distinct density intervals but overall respond similarly to the atmospheric forcing. This study suggests that Southern Ocean ventilation is expected to increase as long as the effect of increasing Southern Hemisphere wind stress overwhelms that of increased stratification.

Supplemental information related to this paper is available at the Journals Online website: https://doi.org/10.1175/JCLI-D-19-0947.s1.

© 2021 American Meteorological Society. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: Lavinia Patara, lpatara@geomar.de

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