University of Tasmania

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Observed storm track dynamics in Drake Passage

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-20, 17:08 authored by Annie FoppertAnnie Foppert
The dynamics of an oceanic storm track—where energy and enstrophy transfer between the mean flow and eddies—are investigated using observations from an eddy-rich region of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current downstream of the Shackleton Fracture Zone (SFZ) in Drake Passage. Four years of measurements by an array of current- and pressure-recording inverted echo sounders deployed between November 2007 and November 2011 are used to diagnose eddy–mean flow interactions and provide insight into physical mechanisms for these transfers. Averaged within the upper to mid-water column (400–1000-m depth) and over the 4-yr-record mean field, eddy potential energy is highest in the western part of the storm track and maximum eddy kinetic energy occurs farther away from the SFZ, shifting the proportion of eddy energies from to about 1 along the storm track. There are enhanced mean 3D wave activity fluxes immediately downstream of SFZ with strong horizontal flux vectors emanating northeast from this region. Similar patterns across composites of Polar Front and Subantarctic Front meander intrusions suggest the dynamics are set more so by the presence of the SFZ than by the eddy’s sign. A case study showing the evolution of a single eddy event, from 15 to 23 July 2010, highlights the storm-track dynamics in a series of snapshots. Consistently, explaining the eddy energetics pattern requires both horizontal and vertical components of W, implying the importance of barotropic and baroclinic processes and instabilities in controlling storm-track dynamics in Drake Passage.


Publication title

Journal of Physical Oceanography








Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies


Amer Meteorological Soc

Place of publication

45 Beacon St, Boston, USA, Ma, 02108-3693

Rights statement

Copyright 2019 American Meteorological Society

Repository Status

  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Antarctic and Southern Ocean oceanic processes; Oceanic processes (excl. in the Antarctic and Southern Ocean); Understanding climate change not elsewhere classified

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