A Simple Model of Abyssal Circulation in a Circumpolar Ocean

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  • 1 MIT/WHOI Joint Program, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, Massachusetts
  • 2 Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, Massachusetts
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Abstract

A simple barotropic model of abyssal circulation in a circumpolar ocean basin is constructed. In the presence of a sufficiently high ridge, the classical Stommel and Arons theory applies here with very substantial modifications In the case with a point source at one side of the channel and a point sink at the other side of the channel, there is a through-channel recirculation in addition to the flow from the source to the sink. The volume flux of this recirculation is critically determined by the supercriticality of the ridge height. In the case with a uniform sink and point sources and sinks, the circulation is essentially in the Stommel and Arons sense with one major novelty; that is, a through-channel recirculating flow is generated. Both its strength and direction depend critically upon the model parameters. This suggests that the Antarctic Bottom Water formation could drive a substantial amount of westward flow that counterbalances the wind-driven eastward flow. Last, a schematic picture of the abyssal circulation in an idealized Southern Ocean is obtained. The most significant feature is the narrow current along the northern boundary of the circumpolar basin, which feeds the deep western boundary currents of the Indian Ocean and Pacific Ocean and connects all the oceanic basins in the Southern Ocean.

Abstract

A simple barotropic model of abyssal circulation in a circumpolar ocean basin is constructed. In the presence of a sufficiently high ridge, the classical Stommel and Arons theory applies here with very substantial modifications In the case with a point source at one side of the channel and a point sink at the other side of the channel, there is a through-channel recirculation in addition to the flow from the source to the sink. The volume flux of this recirculation is critically determined by the supercriticality of the ridge height. In the case with a uniform sink and point sources and sinks, the circulation is essentially in the Stommel and Arons sense with one major novelty; that is, a through-channel recirculating flow is generated. Both its strength and direction depend critically upon the model parameters. This suggests that the Antarctic Bottom Water formation could drive a substantial amount of westward flow that counterbalances the wind-driven eastward flow. Last, a schematic picture of the abyssal circulation in an idealized Southern Ocean is obtained. The most significant feature is the narrow current along the northern boundary of the circumpolar basin, which feeds the deep western boundary currents of the Indian Ocean and Pacific Ocean and connects all the oceanic basins in the Southern Ocean.

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