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Variability and mesoscale activity of the Southern Ocean fronts: Identification of a circumpolar coordinate system


Langlais, C and Rintoul, S and Schiller, A, Variability and mesoscale activity of the Southern Ocean fronts: Identification of a circumpolar coordinate system, Ocean Modelling, 39, (1-2) pp. 79-96. ISSN 1463-5003 (2011) [Refereed Article]

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DOI: doi:10.1016/j.ocemod.2011.04.010


Recent studies have highlighted the filamented nature of the jets associated with the Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC). However, the nature, variability and continuity of the ACC fronts remain a topic of debate, in part because different methods provide different perspectives on this complex current system. The goal of this study is to identify a circumpolar coordinate system or reference frame that accounts for the multiple jets of the ACC and that would be suitable for future studies of cross-front fluxes. A new methodology is developed and tested using simulations from several ocean general circulation models (OGCMs). The method uses subsurface temperature criteria and transport maxima to identify five primary circumpolar fronts. The frontal structure derived using this approach is compared to the sea surface height (SSH) contour approach of Sokolov and Rintoul (2007) and a hybrid of the two methods is proposed. Strengths and weaknesses of the different approaches are summarized. We show that the hybrid approach defines a coordinate system that helps explain the circumpolar structure and variability of the ACC fronts and is relevant for the estimation of cross-front fluxes. Fronts defined in this way show behaviour largely consistent with previous studies, including along-front changes in intensity, splitting and merging of fronts, large meridional displacements and unstable behaviour in the vicinity of large bathymetric features.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:Southern Ocean, Antarctic Circumpolar Current, Fronts identification, mesoscale activity
Research Division:Earth Sciences
Research Group:Oceanography
Research Field:Physical oceanography
Objective Division:Environmental Management
Objective Group:Management of Antarctic and Southern Ocean environments
Objective Field:Antarctic and Southern Ocean oceanic processes
UTAS Author:Langlais, C (Dr Clothilde Langlais)
UTAS Author:Rintoul, S (Dr Steve Rintoul)
ID Code:76876
Year Published:2011
Web of Science® Times Cited:16
Deposited By:CRC-Antarctic Climate & Ecosystems
Deposited On:2012-03-14
Last Modified:2017-11-01
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