Picture (above): Wind-whipped waves. Credit: Axel Antas Bergkvist (Unsplash).

The Southern Ocean has accounted for the vast majority of the global ocean heat uptake since the early 2000s. The atmospheric winds over the Southern Ocean play a leading role in its ability to uptake heat, by way of driving much of the Southern Ocean circulation.

Observations of these winds indicate that they have been steadily changing over the past few decades, and hence, so too is the Southern Ocean heat uptake. However, despite recent research efforts, the details of the Southern Ocean’s response to these changing winds remain uncertain.

CLEX researchers introduced a novel methodology to examine the Southern Ocean’s response to changing winds. They performed numerical simulations with a global ocean‐sea ice model suite that spans a hierarchy of spatial resolutions and driven by realistic atmospheric forcing conditions.

The initial response of the Southern Ocean circulation to changes in winds is robust across the model suite and insensitive to model resolution; longer‐term response, however, depends on the representation of eddies in the model.

  • Paper: Stewart, K. D., Hogg, A. M., England, M. H., & Waugh, D. W. (2020). Response of the Southern Ocean overturning circulation to extreme Southern Annular Mode conditions. Geophysical Research Letters, 47, e2020GL091103. https://doi.org/10.1029/2020GL091103