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Antarctic circumpolar transport and the southern mode: a model investigation of interannual to decadal timescales

Hughes, C.W.; Williams, Joanne; Coward, A.C.; de Cuevas, B.A.. 2014 Antarctic circumpolar transport and the southern mode: a model investigation of interannual to decadal timescales. Ocean Science, 10 (2). 215-225. 10.5194/os-10-215-2014

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Abstract/Summary

It is well-established that, at periods shorter than a year, variations in Antarctic Circumpolar Transport are reflected in a barotropic mode, known as the Southern Mode, in which sea level and bottom pressure varies coherently around Antarctica. Here, we use two multidecadal ocean model runs to investigate the behaviour of the Southern Mode at time scales on which density changes become important, leading to a baroclinic component to the adjustment. We find that the concept of a Southern Mode in bottom pressure remains valid, and remains a direct measure of the circumpolar transport, with changes at the northern boundary playing only a small role even on decadal time scales. However, at periods longer than about 5 years, density changes start to play a role, leading to a surface intensification of the vertical profile of the transport. We also find that barotropic currents on the continental slope account for a significant fraction of the variability, and produce surface intensification in the meridional-integral flow. The role of density variations results in a sea level signal which, although reflecting transport changes at all time scales, has a ratio of sea level to transport which becomes larger at longer time scales. This means that any long-term transport monitoring strategy based on present measurement systems must involve multiplying the observed quantity by a factor which depends on frequency.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI): 10.5194/os-10-215-2014
Programmes: NOC Programmes > Marine Physics and Ocean Climate
NOC Programmes > Marine Systems Modelling
ISSN: 1812-0784
NORA Subject Terms: Marine Sciences
Date made live: 31 Oct 2013 09:30 +0 (UTC)
URI: http://nora.nerc.ac.uk/id/eprint/503663

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