Water mass conversion, fluxes, and mixing in the Scotia Sea diagnosed by an inverse model

Alberto C. Naveira Garabato, David P. Stevens, Karen J. Heywood

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An inverse box model of the Scotia Sea is constructed using hydrographic, tracer, and velocity data collected along the rim of the basin during the Antarctic Large-Scale Box Analysis and the Role of the Scotia Sea (ALBATROSS) cruise. The model provides an estimate of the time-mean three-dimensional circulation as the Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC) crosses the region. It concurrently solves for geostrophic and wind-driven Ekman transports across the boundaries of the basin, air–sea-driven diapycnal fluxes, and “interior” diapycnal fluxes below the ocean surface. An increase is diagnosed in the ACC volume transport from 143 ± 13 Sv (Sv = 106 m3 s-1) at Drake Passage to 149 ± 16 Sv on leaving the Scotia Sea, supplied by the import of 5.9 ± 1.7 Sv of Weddell Sea Deep Water (WSDW) over the South Scotia Ridge. There is a lateral redistribution of the transport, primarily in response to a topographically induced branching of the 70–80 Sv polar front (PF) jet and an increase in the transport associated with the subantarctic front (SAF) from 31 ± 7 to 48 ± 4 Sv. A vertical rearrangement of the transport also occurs, with differences O(2 Sv) in the transports of intermediate and deep water masses. These volume transport changes are accompanied by a net reduction (increase) in the heat (freshwater) flux associated with the ACC by 0.02 ± 0.020 PW (0.020 ± 0.017 Sv), the main cause of which is the cooling and freshening of the Circumpolar Deep Water (CDW) layer in the Scotia Sea. The model suggests that the Scotia Sea hosts intense diapycnal mixing in the ocean interior extending 1500–2000 m above the rough topography of the basin. Despite these model results, no evidence is found for a significant diapycnal link between the upper and lower classes of CDW (and hence between the “shallow” and “deep” cells of the Southern Ocean meridional overturning circulation). On the contrary, the boundary between Upper and Lower CDW separates two distinct regimes of diapycnal mixing involving volume fluxes of 1–3 Sv. Whereas in the denser waters topographic mixing is important, in lighter layers air–sea-driven diapycnal volume fluxes are dominant and diapycnal transfers of heat and freshwater are mainly effected by upper-ocean mixing processes. The model indicates that the ventilation of the deep ACC in the Scotia Sea is driven primarily by isopycnal exchanges with the northern Weddell Sea and to a lesser extent by diapycnal mixing with WSDW. The model reveals the existence of a mesoscale eddy-driven overturning circulation across the ACC core involving an isopycnal poleward transport of 8 ± 1 Sv of CDW and an equatorward transport of intermediate water of the same magnitude. This circulation induces a cross-ACC poleward heat flux of 0.022 ± 0.009 PW and an equatorward freshwater flux of 0.02 ± 0.01 Sv. Adequately scaled, the former compares favorably to measurements of the cross-stream eddy heat flux by moored current meters and floats in the ACC and to budget estimates of the circumpolar cross-ACC heat flux.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2565-2587
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of Physical Oceanography
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 2003

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