A linear decomposition of the Southern Ocean thermohaline structure

Pauthenet, Etienne; Roquet, Fabien; Madec, Gurvan; Nerini, David. 2017 A linear decomposition of the Southern Ocean thermohaline structure. Journal of Physical Oceanography, 47 (1). 29-47.

Before downloading, please read NORA policies.
© Copyright 2017 American Meteorological Society (AMS). Permission to use figures, tables, and brief excerpts from this work in scientific and educational works is hereby granted provided that the source is acknowledged. Any use of material in this work that is determined to be “fair use” under Section 107 of the U.S. Copyright Act September 2010 Page 2 or that satisfies the conditions specified in Section 108 of the U.S. Copyright Act (17 USC §108, as revised by P.L. 94-553) does not require the AMS’s permission. Republication, systematic reproduction, posting in electronic form, such as on a web site or in a searchable database, or other uses of this material, except as exempted by the above statement, requires written permission or a license from the AMS. Additional details are provided in the AMS Copyright Policy, available on the AMS Web site located at ( or from the AMS at 617-227-2425 or
jpo-d-16-0083%2E1.pdf - Published Version

Download (4MB) | Preview


The thermohaline structure of the Southern Ocean is deeply influenced by the presence of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC), where water masses of the World Ocean are advected, transformed, and redistributed to the other basins. It remains a challenge to describe and visualize the complex 3D pattern of this circulation and its associated tracer distribution. Here, a simple framework is presented to analyze the Southern Ocean thermohaline structure. A functional principal component analysis (PCA) is applied to temperature θ and salinity S profiles to determine the main spatial patterns of their variations. Using the Southern Ocean State Estimate (SOSE), this study determines the vertical modes describing the Southern Ocean thermohaline structure between 5 and 2000 m. The first two modes explain 92% of the combined θ–S variance, thus providing a surprisingly good approximation of the thermohaline properties in the Southern Ocean. The first mode (72% of total variance) accurately describes the north–south property gradients. The second mode (20%) mostly describes salinity at 500 m in the region of Antarctic Intermediate Water formation. These two modes present circumpolar patterns that can be closely related with standard frontal definitions. By projecting any given hydrographic profile onto the SOSE-based modes, it is possible to determine its position relative to the fronts. The projection is successfully applied on the hydrographic profiles of the WOCE SR3 section. The Southern Ocean thermohaline decomposition provides an objective way to define water mass boundaries and their spatial variability and has useful application for comparing model output with observations.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
ISSN: 0022-3670
Additional Keywords: Southern Ocean; Fronts; Water masses; Principal components analysis
Date made live: 21 Feb 2017 14:35 +0 (UTC)

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item

Document Downloads

Downloads for past 30 days

Downloads per month over past year

More statistics for this item...