Role of mesoscale eddies in cross-frontal transport of heat and biogeochemical tracers in the Southern Ocean

Carolina O. Dufour, Stephen M. Griffies, Gregory F. de Souza, Ivy Frenger, Adele K. Morrison, Jaime B. Palter, Jorge Louis Sarmiento, Eric D. Galbraith, John P. Dunne, Whit G. Anderson, Richard D. Slater

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

99 Scopus citations


This study examines the role of processes transporting tracers across the Polar Front (PF) in the depth interval between the surface and major topographic sills, which this study refers to as the "PF core." A preindustrial control simulation of an eddying climate model coupled to a biogeochemical model [GFDL Climate Model, version 2.6 (CM2.6)- simplified version of the Biogeochemistry with Light Iron Nutrients and Gas (miniBLING) 0.1° ocean model] is used to investigate the transport of heat, carbon, oxygen, and phosphate across the PF core, with a particular focus on the role of mesoscale eddies. The authors find that the total transport across the PF core results from a ubiquitous Ekman transport that drives the upwelled tracers to the north and a localized opposing eddy transport that induces tracer leakages to the south at major topographic obstacles. In the Ekman layer, the southward eddy transport only partially compensates the northward Ekman transport, while below the Ekman layer, the southward eddy transport dominates the total transport but remains much smaller in magnitude than the near-surface northward transport. Most of the southward branch of the total transport is achieved below the PF core, mainly through geostrophic currents. This study finds that the eddy-diffusive transport reinforces the southward eddy-advective transport for carbon and heat, and opposes it for oxygen and phosphate. Eddy-advective transport is likely to be the leading-order component of eddy-induced transport for all four tracers. However, eddy-diffusive transport may provide a significant contribution to the southward eddy heat transport due to strong along-isopycnal temperature gradients.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3057-3081
Number of pages25
JournalJournal of Physical Oceanography
Issue number12
StatePublished - 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Oceanography


  • Advection
  • Circulation/Dynamics
  • Diffusion
  • Eddies
  • Fronts
  • Geographic location/entity
  • Southern Ocean
  • Transport


Dive into the research topics of 'Role of mesoscale eddies in cross-frontal transport of heat and biogeochemical tracers in the Southern Ocean'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this