University Of Tasmania

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Sensitivity of Antarctic Circumpolar Current Transport and eddy activity to wind patterns in the Southern Ocean

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-18, 09:50 authored by Langlais, CE, Stephen Rintoul, Zika, JD
The Southern Hemisphere westerly winds have intensified in recent decades associated with a positive trend in the southern annular mode (SAM). However, the response of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC) transport and eddy field to wind forcing remains a topic of debate. This study uses global eddy-permitting ocean circulation models driven with both idealized and realistic wind forcing to explore the response to interannual wind strengthening. The response of the barotropic and baroclinic transports and eddy field of the ACC is found to depend on the spatial pattern of the changes in wind forcing. In isolation, an enhancement of the westerlies over the ACC belt leads to an increase of both barotropic and baroclinic transport within the ACC envelope, with lagged enhancement of the eddy kinetic energy (EKE). In contrast, an increase in wind forcing near Antarctica drives a largely barotropic change in transport along closed f/H contours (“free mode”), with little change in eddy activity. Under realistic forcing, the interplay of the SAM and the El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) influences the spatial distribution of the wind anomalies, in particular the partition between changes in the wind stress over the ACC and along f/H contours. This study finds that the occurrence of a negative or positive ENSO during a positive SAM can cancel or double the wind anomalies near Antarctica, altering the response of the ACC and its eddy field. While a negative ENSO and positive SAM favors an increase in EKE, a positive ENSO and positive SAM lead to barotropic transport changes and no eddy response.


Publication title

Journal of Physical Oceanography










Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies


American Meteorological Society

Place of publication

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

Rights statement

Copyright 2015 2015 American Meteorological Society

Repository Status

  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Antarctic and Southern Ocean oceanic processes