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Response of the Southern Ocean to the Southern Annular Mode: Interannual Variability and Multidecadal Trend

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  • 1 Laboratoire de Physique des Oceans, CNRS–IRD–IFREMER–UBO, Brest, France
  • | 2 LEGI, CNRS–UJF–INPG, Grenoble, France
  • | 3 National Oceanography Centre, Southampton, Southampton, United Kingdom
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Abstract

The authors evaluate the response of the Southern Ocean to the variability and multidecadal trend of the southern annular mode (SAM) from 1972 to 2001 in a global eddy-permitting model of the DRAKKAR project. The transport of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC) is correlated with the SAM at interannual time scales but exhibits a drift because of the thermodynamic adjustment of the model (the ACC transport decreases because of a low renewal rate of dense waters around Antarctica). The interannual variability of the eddy kinetic energy (EKE) and the ACC transport are uncorrelated, but the EKE decreases like the ACC transport over the three decades, even though meridional eddy fluxes of heat and buoyancy remain stable. The contribution of oceanic eddies to meridional transports is an important issue because a growth of the poleward eddy transport could, in theory, oppose the increase of the mean overturning circulation forced by the SAM. In the authors’ model, the total meridional circulation at 50°S is well correlated with the SAM index (and the Ekman transport) at interannual time scales, and both increase over three decades between 1972 and 2001. However, given the long-term drift, no SAM-linked trend in the eddy contribution to the meridional overturning circulation is detectable. The increase of the meridional overturning is due to the time-mean component and is compensated by an increased buoyancy gain at the surface. The authors emphasize that the meridional circulation does not vary in a simple relationship with the zonal circulation. The model solution points out that the zonal circulation and the eddy kinetic energy are governed by different mechanisms according to the time scale considered (interannual or decadal).

Corresponding author address: A. M. Treguier, Laboratoire de Physique des Oceans, CNRS–IRD–IFREMER–UBO, UMR 6523, IFREMER, BP 70, 29280 Plouzane, France. Email: treguier@ifremer.fr

Abstract

The authors evaluate the response of the Southern Ocean to the variability and multidecadal trend of the southern annular mode (SAM) from 1972 to 2001 in a global eddy-permitting model of the DRAKKAR project. The transport of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC) is correlated with the SAM at interannual time scales but exhibits a drift because of the thermodynamic adjustment of the model (the ACC transport decreases because of a low renewal rate of dense waters around Antarctica). The interannual variability of the eddy kinetic energy (EKE) and the ACC transport are uncorrelated, but the EKE decreases like the ACC transport over the three decades, even though meridional eddy fluxes of heat and buoyancy remain stable. The contribution of oceanic eddies to meridional transports is an important issue because a growth of the poleward eddy transport could, in theory, oppose the increase of the mean overturning circulation forced by the SAM. In the authors’ model, the total meridional circulation at 50°S is well correlated with the SAM index (and the Ekman transport) at interannual time scales, and both increase over three decades between 1972 and 2001. However, given the long-term drift, no SAM-linked trend in the eddy contribution to the meridional overturning circulation is detectable. The increase of the meridional overturning is due to the time-mean component and is compensated by an increased buoyancy gain at the surface. The authors emphasize that the meridional circulation does not vary in a simple relationship with the zonal circulation. The model solution points out that the zonal circulation and the eddy kinetic energy are governed by different mechanisms according to the time scale considered (interannual or decadal).

Corresponding author address: A. M. Treguier, Laboratoire de Physique des Oceans, CNRS–IRD–IFREMER–UBO, UMR 6523, IFREMER, BP 70, 29280 Plouzane, France. Email: treguier@ifremer.fr

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