Crossing the Southern Ocean: Reconsidering the manner in which heat is transported across the Antarctic Circumpolar Current

Matthew Hecht, Senior Scientist, Computational Physics and Methods (CCS-2) group, Los Alamos National Laboratory

Wednesday, April 25, 2018
1:30 p.m.

Hopeman 224

Along with keeping Antartica cold, the Southern Ocean’s linkage of the other three major oceans allows for a global circulation of heat sometimes referred to as the Conveyor Belt, contributing to the poleward delivery of heat that has been absorbed over the tropics.


As the only major ocean basin that allows for circumpolar flow the Southern Ocean is most analogous in its dynamics to the atmosphere, where storm systems deliver most of the poleward heat transport across the middle latitudes. In the oceans, the dynamical analog of storm systems are oceanic eddies (smaller in diameter by an order of magnitude, due to weaker stratification). Here, we investigate the extent to which the turbulent eddy-driven transport of heat across the Southern Ocean may be supplemented, or even dominated, by topographically fixed meanders in the flow. This very current area of research will, we hope, provide a context in which to discuss some important aspects of the fluid dynamics that explain the Earth’s climate.