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Near-surface eddy dynamics in the Southern Ocean

Author(s): Marilisa Trani | Pierpaolo Falco | Enrico Zambianchi

Journal: Polar Research
ISSN 0800-0395

Volume: 30;
Start page: 1;
Date: 2011;
Original page

Keywords: Antarctic Circumpolar Current | eddy fluxes | Global Drifter Program data | Lagrangian oceanography | Helmholtz decomposition

The Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC) is a crucial component of the global ocean conveyor belt, acting as a zonal link among the major ocean basins but, to some extent, limiting meridional exchange and tending to isolate the ocean south of it from momentum and heat income. In this work we investigate one of the most important mechanisms contributing to the poleward transfer of properties in the Southern Ocean, that is the eddy component of the dynamics. For this particular purpose, observations obtained from near-surface drifters have been used: they represent a very useful data set to analyse the eddy field because of their ability to catch a large number of scales of motion while providing a quasi-synoptic coverage of the investigated area. Estimates of the eddy heat and momentum fluxes are carried out using data taken from the Global Drifter Program databank; they refer to Surface Velocity Program drifter trajectories collected in the area south of 35°S between 1995 and 2006. Eddy kinetic energies, variance ellipses, momentum and heat fluxes have been calculated using the pseudo-Eulerian method, showing patterns in good agreement with those present in the literature based on observational and model data, although there are some quantitative differences. The eddy fluxes have been separated into their rotational and divergent portions, the latter being responsible for the meridional transports. The associated zonal and depth-exponentially integrated meridional heat transport exhibits values spanning over a range between -0.4 PW and –1.1 PW in the ACC region, consistent with previous estimates.
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