Mechanisms of Southern Ocean heat uptake and transport in a global eddying climate model

Adele K. Morrison, Stephen M. Griffies, Michael Winton, Whit G. Anderson, Jorge Louis Sarmiento

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63 Scopus citations


The Southern Ocean plays a dominant role in anthropogenic oceanic heat uptake. Strong northward transport of the heat content anomaly limits warming of the sea surface temperature in the uptake region and allows the heat uptake to be sustained. Using an eddy-rich global climate model, the processes controlling the northward transport and convergence of the heat anomaly in the midlatitude Southern Ocean are investigated in an idealized 1% yr-1 increasing CO2 simulation. Heat budget analyses reveal that different processes dominate to the north and south of the main convergence region. The heat transport northward from the uptake region in the south is driven primarily by passive advection of the heat content anomaly by the existing time mean circulation, with a smaller 20% contribution from enhanced upwelling. The heat anomaly converges in the midlatitude deep mixed layers because there is not a corresponding increase in the mean heat transport out of the deep mixed layers northward into the mode waters. To the north of the deep mixed layers, eddy processes drive the warming and account for nearly 80% of the northward heat transport anomaly. The eddy transport mechanism results from a reduction in both the diffusive and advective southward eddy heat transports, driven by decreasing isopycnal slopes and decreasing along-isopycnal temperature gradients on the northern edge of the peak warming.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2059-2075
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Climate
Issue number6
StatePublished - Mar 1 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Atmospheric Science


  • Circulation/ Dynamics
  • Eddies
  • Geographic location/entity
  • Meridional overturning circulation
  • Southern Ocean


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