John Marshall

Cecil and Ida Green Professor of Oceanography, MIT

Observed mesoscale eddy signatures in Southern Ocean surface mixed-layer depth

Observed mesoscale eddy signatures in Southern Ocean surface mixed-layer depth.

(Hausmann, Ute, McGillicuddy, Dennis, and John Marshall), Journal of Geophysical Research, vol. 122, pp. pages, 2017.


Combining satellite altimetry with Argo profile data a systematic observational estimate of mesoscale eddy signatures in surface mixed-layer depth (MLD) is provided across the Southern Ocean (SO). Eddy composite MLD anomalies are shallow in cyclones, deep in anticyclones, and increase in magnitude with eddy amplitude. Their magnitudes show a pronounced seasonal modulation roughly following the depth of the climatological mixed layer. Weak eddies of the relatively quiescent SO subtropics feature peak late-winter perturbations of ±10 m. Much larger MLD perturbations occur over the vigorous eddies originating along the Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC) and SO western boundary current systems, with late-winter peaks of −30 m and +60 m in the average over cyclonic and anticyclonic eddy cores (a difference of ≈ 100 m). The asymmetry between modest shallow cyclonic and pronounced deep anticyclonic anomalies is systematic and not accompanied by corresponding asymmetries in eddy amplitude. Nonetheless, the net deepening of the climatological SO mixed layer by this asymmetry in eddy MLD perturbations is estimated to be small (few meters). Eddies are shown to enhance SO MLD variability with peaks in late winter and eddy-intense regions. Anomalously deep late-winter mixed layers occur disproportionately within the cores of anticyclonic eddies, suggesting the mesoscale heightens the frequency of deep winter surface-mixing events along the eddy-intense regions of the SO. The eddy modulation in MLD reported here provides a pathway via which the oceanic mesoscale can impact air-sea fluxes of heat and carbon, the ventilation of water masses, and biological productivity across the SO.

doi = 10.1002/2016JC012225