University Of Tasmania

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The dynamics of Southern Ocean storm tracks

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-18, 09:17 authored by Chapman, CC, Hogg, AMcC, Kiss, AE, Stephen Rintoul
The mechanisms that initiate and maintain oceanic “storm tracks” (regions of anomalously high eddy kinetic energy) are studied in a wind-driven, isopycnal, primitive equation model with idealized bottom topography. Storm tracks are found downstream of the topography in regions strongly influenced by a large-scale stationary meander that is generated by the interaction between the background mean flow and the topography. In oceanic storm tracks the length scale of the stationary meander differs from that of the transient eddies, a point of distinction from the atmospheric storm tracks. When the zonal length and height of the topography are varied, the storm-track intensity is largely unchanged and the downstream storm-track length varies only weakly. The dynamics of the storm track in this idealized configuration are investigated using a wave activity flux (related to the Eliassen–Palm flux and eddy energy budgets). It is found that vertical fluxes of wave activity (which correspond to eddy growth by baroclinic conversion) are localized to the region influenced by the standing meander. Farther downstream, organized horizontal wave activity fluxes (which indicate eddy energy fluxes) are found. A mechanism for the development of oceanic storm tracks is proposed: the standing meander initiates localized conversion of energy from the mean field to the eddy field, while the storm track develops downstream of the initial baroclinic growth through the ageostrophic flux of Montgomery potential. Finally, the implications of this analysis for the parameterization and prediction of storm tracks in ocean models are discussed.


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 2015 American Meteorological Society

Repository Status

  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Antarctic and Southern Ocean oceanic processes