The force balance of the Southern Ocean Meridional Overturning Circulation

TitleThe force balance of the Southern Ocean Meridional Overturning Circulation
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2013
AuthorsMazloff MR, Ferrari R, Schneider T
JournalJournal of Physical Oceanography
Date Published2013/06
Type of ArticleArticle
ISBN Number0022-3670
Accession NumberWOS:000320162300007
Keywordsantarctic circumpolar current; eddies; eulerian-mean theory; mass-transport; model; momentum balance; part ii; potential vorticity dynamics; thermocline; wind stress; zonal

The Southern Ocean (SO) limb of the meridional overturning circulation (MOC) is characterized by three vertically stacked cells, each with a transport of about 10 Sv (Sv = 10(6) m(3) s(-1)). The buoyancy transport in the SO is dominated by the upper and middle MOC cells, with the middle cell accounting for most of the buoyancy transport across the Antarctic Circumpolar Current. A Southern Ocean state estimate for the years 2005 and 2006 with 1/6 degrees resolution is used to determine the forces balancing this MOC. Diagnosing the zonal momentum budget in density space allows an exact determination of the adiabatic and diapycnal components balancing the thickness-weighted (residual) meridional transport. It is found that, to lowest order, the transport consists of an eddy component, a directly wind-driven component, and a component in balance with mean pressure gradients. Nonvanishing time-mean pressure gradients arise because isopycnal layers intersect topography or the surface in a circumpolar integral, leading to a largely geostrophic MOC even in the latitude band of Drake Passage. It is the geostrophic water mass transport in the surface layer where isopycnals outcrop that accomplishes the poleward buoyancy transport.

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