The Role of Closed Gyres in Setting the Zonal Transport of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current

(Nadeau, L. P. and Ferrari, R.), Journal of Physical Oceanography, vol. 45, no. 6, pp. pages, 2015.


Eddy-permitting simulations are used to show that basinlike gyres can be observed in the large-scale barotropic flow of a wind-driven channel with a meridional topographic ridge. This is confirmed using both two-layer quasigeostrophic and 25-level primitive equation models at high horizontal resolution. Comparing results from simulations with and without the topographic ridge, it is shown that the zonal baroclinic transport in the channel increases with increasing wind stress when the bottom topography is flat but not when there is a meridional ridge. The saturation of transport for increasing wind occurs in conjunction with the development of recirculating gyres in the large-scale barotropic streamfunction. This suggests that the total circulation can be thought of as a superposition of a gyre mode (which has zero circumpolar transport) and a free circumpolar mode (which contains all of the transport). Basinlike gyres arise in the channel because the topography steers the barotropic streamlines and supports a frictional boundary layer similar to the more familiar ones observed along western boundaries. The gyre mode is thus closely linked with the bottom form stress exerted by the along-ridge flow and provides the sink for the wind momentum input. In this framework, any increase in wind forcing spins a stronger gyre as opposed to feeding the circumpolar transport. This hypothesis is supported with a suite of experiments where key parameters are carried over a wide range: wind stress, wind stress curl, ridge height, channel length, and bottom friction.

doi = 10.1175/jpo-d-14-0173.1


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