John Marshall

Cecil and Ida Green Professor of Oceanography, MIT

Testing theories of the vertical stratification of the ACC against observations

Testing theories of the vertical stratification of the ACC against observations.

(Karsten, RH and Marshall, J), DYNAMICS OF ATMOSPHERES AND OCEANS, vol. 36, no. 1-3, pp. pages, 2002.

Abstract

Recent theories of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC) suggest that its lateral and vertical stratification is controlled by its baroclinic instability: eddies in the ACC not only feed-off the available potential energy stored in sloping isopycnals but play a central role is setting up that stratification. Simple theory makes predictions about how the depth of the thermocline in the ACC depends on the surface winds, the air-sea buoyancy flux and transfer by baroclinic eddies. By examining gridded hydrographic data, here we test some of these predictions against observations. We show that, to a remarkable degree, the buoyancy field in the ACC decays exponentially with depth beneath the mixed layer. The e-folding depth increases equatorward, from less than 500 m on the poleward flank of the ACC to greater than 1000 m on its equatorial flank, in a manner that is broadly consistent with the theory. (C) 2002 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.

doi = 10.1016/S0377-0265(02)00031-3