The contribution of the Weddell Gyre to the lower limb of the Global Overturning Circulation

Loic Jullion, Alberto C. Naveira Garabato, Sheldon Bacon, Mike P. Meredith, Peter J. Brown, Sinhue Torres-Valdes, Kevin G. Speer, Paul R. Holland, Jun Dong, Dorothee C. E. Bakker, Mario Hoppema, Brice Loose, Hugh J Venables, William J. Jenkins, Marie-Jose Messias, Eberhard Fahrbach

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The horizontal and vertical circulation of the Weddell Gyre is diagnosed using a box inverse model constructed with recent hydrographic sections and including mobile sea ice and eddy transports. The gyre is found to convey 42 +/- 8 Sv (1 Sv = 10^6 m3 s–1) across the central Weddell Sea and to intensify to 54 +/- 15 Sv further offshore. This circulation injects 36 +/-13 TW of heat from the Antarctic Circumpolar Current to the gyre, and exports 51 +/- 23 mSv of freshwater, including 1361 mSv as sea ice to the midlatitude Southern Ocean. The gyre’s overturning circulation has an asymmetric double-cell structure, in which 13 +/- 4 Sv of Circumpolar Deep Water (CDW) and relatively light Antarctic Bottom Water (AABW) are transformed into upper-ocean water masses by midgyre upwelling (at a rate of 2 +/- 2 Sv) and into denser AABW
by downwelling focussed at the western boundary (8 +/- 2 Sv). The gyre circulation exhibits a substantial throughflow component, by which CDW and AABW enter the gyre from the Indian sector, undergo ventilation and densification within the gyre, and are exported to the South Atlantic across the gyre’s northern rim. The relatively modest net production of AABW in the Weddell Gyre (6 +/- 2 Sv) suggests that the gyre’s prominence in the closure of the lower limb of global oceanic overturning stems largely from the recycling
and equatorward export of Indian-sourced AABW.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3357-3377
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research - Oceans
Issue number6
Early online date5 Jun 2014
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2014


  • Weddell Sea
  • Southern Ocean
  • meridional overturning circulation
  • oceanography
  • sea ice
  • climate

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