Ventilation of the abyss in the Atlantic sector of the Southern Ocean

The Atlantic sector of the Southern Ocean is the world’s main production site of Antarctic Bottom Water, a water-mass that is ventilated at the ocean surface before sinking and entraining older water-masses—ultimately replenishing the abyssal global ocean. In recent decades, numerous attempts at estimating the rates of ventilation and overturning of Antarctic Bottom Water in this region have led to a strikingly broad range of results, with water transport-based calculations (8.4–9.7 Sv) yielding larger rates than tracer-based estimates (3.7–4.9 Sv). Here, we reconcile these conflicting views by integrating transport- and tracer-based estimates within a common analytical framework, in which bottom water formation processes are explicitly quantified. We show that the layer of Antarctic Bottom Water denser than 28.36 kg m−3 γn is exported northward at a rate of 8.4 ± 0.7 Sv, composed of 4.5 ± 0.3 Sv of well-ventilated Dense Shelf Water, and 3.9 ± 0.5 Sv of old Circumpolar Deep Water entrained into cascading plumes. The majority, but not all, of the Dense Shelf Water (3.4 ± 0.6 Sv) is generated on the continental shelves of the Weddell Sea. Only 55% of AABW exported from the region is well ventilated and thus draws down heat and carbon into the deep ocean. Our findings unify traditionally contrasting views of Antarctic Bottom Water production in the Atlantic sector, and define a baseline, process-discerning target for its realistic representation in climate models.


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Authors: Akhoudas, Camille Hayatte, Sallée, Jean-Baptiste, Haumann, F. Alexander ORCIDORCID record for F. Alexander Haumann, Meredith, Michael P. ORCIDORCID record for Michael P. Meredith, Garabato, Alberto Naveira, Reverdin, Gilles, Jullion, Loïc, Aloisi, Giovanni, Benetti, Marion, Leng, Melanie J. ORCIDORCID record for Melanie J. Leng, Arrowsmith, Carol

On this site: Fabian Haumann, Michael Meredith
24 March, 2021
Scientific Reports / 11
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