Antarctic Circumpolar Current transport and barotropic transition at Macquarie Ridge

Geophysical Research Letters (Volume 41, Issue 20)

Rintoul, S. R., S. Sokolov, M. J. M. Williams, B. Peña Molino, M. Rosenberg, and N. L. Bindoff (2014), Antarctic Circumpolar Current transport and barotropic transition at Macquarie Ridge, Geophysical Research Letters, 41, 7254–7261, doi:10.1002/2014GL061880.

Theory and numerical simulations suggest that topographic interactions are central to the dynamics of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC), but few observations are available to test these ideas. We use direct velocity measurements, satellite altimetry, and an ocean state estimate to investigate the interaction of the ACC with the Macquarie Ridge. Satellite altimeter data show that the Subantarctic Front crosses the ridge through a gap immediately north of Macquarie Island. Yearlong current meter records reveal strong deep mean flow (> 0.2 m s−1 at 3000 m) and substantial transport (52 ± 8 × 106 m3 s−1) in the 50 km wide gap. The ACC becomes much more barotropic at the ridge. Acceleration of the deep jet is balanced by the ageostrophic along-gap pressure gradient, convergence of zonal momentum by the mean vertical velocity, and dissipation. The study helps explain how the ACC negotiates large topographic obstacles and highlights the role of local, nonlinear processes in the dynamical balance of the ACC.


Authorised by the CEO of the Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems Cooperative Research Centre October 2019.

The ACE CRC was established and supported under the Australian Government’s Cooperative Research Centres Program.

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