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Influence of Wind Stress, Wind Stress Curl, and Bottom Friction on the Transport of a Model Antarctic Circumpolar Current

Louis-Philippe NadeauCourant Institute of Mathematical Sciences, New York University, New York, New York

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David N. StraubDepartment of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada

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Abstract

Eddy-permitting simulations of a wind-driven quasigeostrophic model in an idealized Southern Ocean setting are used to attempt to describe what sets the wind-driven circumpolar transport of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC). For weak forcing, the transport is well described as a linear sum of channel and basin components. The authors’ main focus is on stronger forcing. In this regime, an eddy-driven recirculation appears in the abyssal layer, and all time-mean circumpolar streamlines are found to stem from a Sverdrup-like interior. The Sverdrup flux into Drake Passage latitudes can then be thought of as the sum of one part that feeds the circumpolar current and another that is associated with the recirculation. The relative fractions of this partitioning depend on the bottom drag, the midchannel wind stress, and the wind stress curl. Increasing the strength of the bottom drag reduces the recirculation and increases circumpolar transport. Increasing a zero-curl eastward wind stress reduces the upper-layer expression of the recirculation and increases the transport. Increasing the curl-containing portion of the forcing (while holding the midchannel stress constant) increases the recirculation and decreases the transport.

The weakly forced regime is also considered, as are the relative roles of large and small-scale eddies in transporting momentum vertically through the water column in the Drake Passage latitude band. It is found that the vertical momentum flux associated with transient structures can be used to distinguish between different regimes: these structures transmit momentum upward when the dynamics is dominated by the large-scale recirculation gyre and downward when it is not.

Corresponding author address: Louis-Philippe Nadeau, Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences, New York University, 251 Mercer Street, New York, NY 10012-1185. E-mail: nadeau@cims.nyu.edu

Abstract

Eddy-permitting simulations of a wind-driven quasigeostrophic model in an idealized Southern Ocean setting are used to attempt to describe what sets the wind-driven circumpolar transport of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC). For weak forcing, the transport is well described as a linear sum of channel and basin components. The authors’ main focus is on stronger forcing. In this regime, an eddy-driven recirculation appears in the abyssal layer, and all time-mean circumpolar streamlines are found to stem from a Sverdrup-like interior. The Sverdrup flux into Drake Passage latitudes can then be thought of as the sum of one part that feeds the circumpolar current and another that is associated with the recirculation. The relative fractions of this partitioning depend on the bottom drag, the midchannel wind stress, and the wind stress curl. Increasing the strength of the bottom drag reduces the recirculation and increases circumpolar transport. Increasing a zero-curl eastward wind stress reduces the upper-layer expression of the recirculation and increases the transport. Increasing the curl-containing portion of the forcing (while holding the midchannel stress constant) increases the recirculation and decreases the transport.

The weakly forced regime is also considered, as are the relative roles of large and small-scale eddies in transporting momentum vertically through the water column in the Drake Passage latitude band. It is found that the vertical momentum flux associated with transient structures can be used to distinguish between different regimes: these structures transmit momentum upward when the dynamics is dominated by the large-scale recirculation gyre and downward when it is not.

Corresponding author address: Louis-Philippe Nadeau, Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences, New York University, 251 Mercer Street, New York, NY 10012-1185. E-mail: nadeau@cims.nyu.edu
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