de Boer et al. (2022) The impact of Southern Ocean topographic barriers on the ocean circulation and the overlying atmosphere

A.M. de Boer, D.K. Hutchinson, F. Roquet, L.C. Sime, N.J. Burls, and C. Heuzé (2022) The impact of Southern Ocean topographic barriers on the ocean circulation and the overlying atmosphere, Journal of Climate, vol 35, pp 5805–5821, doi:10.1175/JCLI-D-21-0896.1

Does the seafloor matter for the climate? More specifically, if the under-water mountains were gone, would any climate process be affected? We conducted four model experiments where we flattened a part of the seafloor around the Southern Ocean to answer that question.

The entire climate system was impacted, from the formation of deep water to precipitation. Which in hindsight is not surprising: like mountains on land, these under-water mountains block the flow and force it to go around, taking a longer, different route. If you remove the mountains, the flow can now take the shortest route from A to B. In the Southern Ocean, that meant that the entire water column was modified, fronts were relocated, modifying the temperature/pressure gradients at the ocean surface and lower atmosphere, hence even changing precipitation patterns.

That is: another proof that the deep ocean matters 🙂

The modified Southern Ocean bathymetry: in the red boxes, the usual underwater mountains have been replaced with a flat, deep seafloor. Adapted from Fig. 1b of de Boer et al. (2022)

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