The impact of Southern Ocean topographic barriers on the ocean circulation and the overlying atmosphere

Southern Ocean bathymetry constrains the path of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC), but the bathymetric influence on the coupled ocean–atmosphere system is poorly understood. Here, we investigate this impact by respectively flattening large topographic barriers around the Kerguelen Plateau, Campbell Plateau, Mid-Atlantic Ridge, and Drake Passage in four simulations in a coupled climate model. The barriers impact both the wind and buoyancy forcing of the ACC transport, which increases by between 4% and 14% when barriers are removed individually and by 56% when all barriers are removed simultaneously. The removal of Kerguelen Plateau bathymetry increases convection south of the plateau and the removal of Drake Passage bathymetry reduces convection upstream in the Ross Sea. When the barriers are removed, zonal flattening of the currents leads to sea surface temperature (SST) anomalies that strongly correlate to precipitation anomalies, with correlation coefficients ranging between r = 0.92 and r = 0.97 in the four experiments. The SST anomalies correlate to the surface winds too in some locations. However, they also generate circumpolar waves of sea level pressure (SLP) anomalies, which induce remote wind speed changes that are unconnected to the underlying SST field. The meridional variability in the wind stress curl contours over the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, the Kerguelen Plateau, and the Campbell Plateau disappears when these barriers are removed, confirming the impact of bathymetry on surface winds. However, bathymetry-induced wind changes are too small to affect the overall wave-3 asymmetry in the Southern Hemisphere westerlies. Removal of Southern Hemisphere orography is also inconsequential to the wave-3 pattern.


Publication status:
Authors: de Boer, Agatha M., Hutchinson, David K., Roquet, Fabien, Sime, Louise C. ORCIDORCID record for Louise C. Sime, Burls, Natalie J., Heuzé, Céline

On this site: Louise Sime
15 September, 2022
Journal of Climate / 35
17pp / 5805-5821
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