Date of Award

2017

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Oceanography

Department

Oceanography

First Advisor

Kathleen A. Donohue

Abstract

The Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC) is a complex current system composed of multiple jets that is both unique to the world's oceans and relatively under observed compared with other current systems. Observations taken by current- and pressure-recording inverted echo sounders (CPIES) over four years, from November 2007 to November 2011, quantify the mean structure of one of the main jets of the ACC - the Polar Front - in a composite-mean sense. While the array of CPIES deployed in Drake Passage included a 3 x 7 local dynamics array, analysis of the Polar Front makes use of the line of CPIES that spanned the width of Drake Passage (C-Line). The Polar Front tends to prefer one of two locations, separated along the C-Line by 1_ of latitude, with the core of the jet centered on corresponding geopotential height contours (with a 17 cm difference between the northern and southern jets). Potential vorticity fields suggest that the Polar Front is susceptible to baroclinic instability, regardless of whether it is found upstream (farther south along the C-Line) or downstream (farther north along the C-Line) of the Shackleton Fracture Zone (SFZ), yet the core of the jet remains a barrier to smaller-scale mixing, as inferred from estimated mixing lengths.

Within the local dynamics array of CPIES, the observed offset between eddy heat flux (EHF) and eddy kinetic energy (EKE) and the alignment of EHF with sea surface height (SSH) standard deviation motivates a proxy for depth-integrated EHF that can be estimated from available satellite SSH data. An eddy-resolving numerical model develops the statistics of a logarithmic fit between SSH standard deviation and cross-frontal EHF that is applied to the ACC in a circumglobal sense. We find 1.06 PW enters the ACC from the north and 0.02 PW exits towards Antarctica. The magnitude of the estimated EHF, along with contemporaneous estimates of the mean heat flux, suggests that the air-sea heat flux south of the PF is an overestimate. Long-term trends in EHF are calculated from January 1992 to December 2014 and reveal varying trends at the eight ACC EHF hot spots, with only three having statistically significant temporal trends of strengthening cross-frontal EHF.

The dynamics of an oceanic storm track are investigated using CPIES observations in the local dynamics array to better understand the processes responsible for the spatial offset between EHF and EKE. Wave activity flux (W), calculated from the total geostrophic stream-function, is used to diagnose eddy-mean flow interactions in the eddy-rich region immediately downstream of the SFZ. In the full four-year mean and in a composite of eddy events, elevated values of eddy potential energy (EPE) are aligned with the vertical component of W. This is indicative of a conversion of mean available potential energy to EPE through EHF associated with baroclinic instability. Emanating from this region, horizontal W vectors point towards the adjacent region of elevated EKE. A case study of an eddy event, lasting from 15 to 23 July 2010, is presented and highlights the capability of W to illustrate the evolution of the storm track in a snap-shot sense. The alignment of elevated values of EKE with the convergence of the horizontal W vectors indicates the importance of barotropic processes in transporting EKE away from the ACC's interaction with the SFZ.

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