Wintertime convection and frontal interleaving in the Southern Ocean
Toole, John M.
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KeywordOcean-atmosphere interaction; Ocean temperature; Oceanic mixing; Heat budget; Sea ice; Convection; Fronts; Thomas G. Thompson (Ship) Cruise TN107; Knorr (Ship : 1970-) Cruise KN73
The Southern Ocean as defined here is the body of water between the Antarctic Continent and the Antarctic Polar Front, (APF). This ocean is considered important in the global thermodynamic balance of the ocean-atmosphere system because large planetary heat losses are believed to occur at high latitudes. The ocean and atmosphere must transport heat poleward to balance these losses. In the Southern Hemisphere, the oceanic contribution to this flux involves a southward transport of heat across the APF into the Southern Ocean where it is given up to the atmosphere through air-sea interactions. In Part I, the air-sea interactions and structure of the near surface waters of the Southern Ocean are investigated with a three dimensional time dependent numerical model. The surface waters in this region in summer are characterized by a relatively warm surface mixed layer with low salinity. Below this layer, a cold temperature extremum is usually observed in vertical profiles which is believed to be the remnant of a deep surface mixed layer produced in winter. The characteristics of this layer, the surface mixed layer and the observed distribution of wintertime sea ice are reproduced well by this model. Unlike some other sea-ice models the air-sea heat exchange is a free variable. Model estimates of the annual heat loss by the Southern Ocean exhibit the observed meridional variation of heat gained by the ocean along the APF with heat lost further south. The model's area average heat loss is much smaller than that estimated with direct observations. While several model parameterizations were made which could be in error, the model results suggest that the Southern Ocean does give up vast amounts of heat to the atmosphere away from the continental margins. The model results and direct calculations of air-sea exchanges suggest a southward heat flux must occur across the APF. The lateral water mass transition across the front is not discontinuous but occurs over a finite sized zone of fluid which is dominated by intrusive finestructure. The characteristics and dynamics of these features are investigated in Part II to try and assess their importance in the meridional heat budget. Observations made on two cruises to the APF are presented and the space-time scales of the features and thermohaline characteristics are discussed. It is suggested that double diffusive processes dominated by salt fingering are active within the intrusions. An extension of Stern's (1967) model of the stability of a thermohaline front to intrusive finestructure driven by saltfingering where small scale viscous processes are included, is presented to explain why intrusions are observed in frontal zones. The model successfully predicts vertical scales of intrusions observed in the ocean and the observed dependence of the intrusions' slopes across density surfaces on the vertical scale. Since the fastest growing intrusion is not strongly determined by the model, though, it is likely that finite amplitude effects determine the dominant scale of interleaving in the ocean. The analysis predicts that intrusions transport heat, salt and density down the mean gradients of the front. For the APF, this heat flux is poleward which is the direction required by the global heat budget. This model does not describe intrusions at finite amplitude or in steady state and so cannot be used to estimate the magnitude of the poleward heat flux due to intrusions in the APF.
Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution March, 1980
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