University of Tasmania
Downes et al 2017.pdf (1.72 MB)

Regional impacts of the westerly winds on Southern Ocean mode and intermediate water subduction

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journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-19, 14:55 authored by Stephanie Downes, Langlais, C, Brook, JP, Spence, P
Subduction processes in the Southern Ocean transfer oxygen, heat, and anthropogenic carbon into the ocean interior. The future response of upper-ocean subduction, in the Subantarctic Mode Water (SAMW) and Antarctic Intermediate Water (AAIW) classes, is dependent on the evolution of the combined surface buoyancy forcing and overlying westerly wind stress. Here, the recently observed pattern of a poleward intensification of the westerly winds is divided into its shift and increase components. SAMW and AAIW formation occurs in regional "hot spots" in deep mixed layer zones, primarily in the southeast Indian and Pacific. It is found that the mixed layer depth responds differently to wind stress perturbations across these regional formation zones. An increase only in the westerly winds in the Indian sector steepens isopycnals and increases the local circulation, driving deeper mixed layers and increased subduction. Conversely, in the same region, a poleward shift and poleward intensification of the westerly winds reduces heat loss and increases freshwater input, thus decreasing the mixed layer depth and consequently the associated SAMW and AAIW subduction. In the Pacific sector, all wind stress perturbations lead to increases in heat loss and decreases in freshwater input, resulting in a net increase in SAMW and AAIW subduction. Overall, the poleward shift in the westerly wind stress dominates the SAMWsubduction changes, rather than the increase in wind stress. The net decrease in SAMW subduction across all basins would likely decrease anthropogenic carbon sequestration; however, the net AAIWsubduction changes across the Southern Ocean are overall minor.


Publication title

Journal of Physical Oceanography










Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies


Amer Meteorological Soc

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

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  • Open

Socio-economic Objectives

Antarctic and Southern Ocean oceanic processes

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