Articles | Volume 16, issue 8
31 Aug 1998
31 Aug 1998

A dynamically consistent analysis of circulation and transports in the southwestern Weddell Sea

M. Yaremchuk, D. Nechaev, J. Schroter, and E. Fahrbach

Abstract. An inverse model is applied for the analysis of hydrographic and current meter data collected on the repeat WOCE section SR4 in the Weddell Sea in 1989–1992. The section crosses the Weddell Sea cyclonic gyre from Kapp Norvegia to the northern end of the Antarctic Peninsula. The concepts of geostrophy, conservation of planetary vorticity and hydrostatics are combined with advective balances of active and passive properties to provide a dynamically consistent circulation pattern. Our variational assimilation scheme allows the calculation of three-dimensional velocities in the section plane. Current speeds are small except along the coasts where they reach up to 12 cm/s. We diagnose a gyre transport of 34 Sverdrup which is associated with a poleward heat transport of 28×1012 W corresponding to an average heat flux of 15 Wm–2 in the Weddell Sea south of the transect. This exceeds the estimated local flux on the transect of 2 Wm–2. As the transect is located mostly in the open ocean, we conclude that the shelf areas contribute significantly to the ocean-atmosphere exchange and are consequently key areas for the contribution of the Weddell Sea to global ocean ventilation. Conversion of water masses occuring south of the section transform 6.6±1.1 Sv of the inflowing warm deep water into approximately equal amounts of Weddell Sea deep water and Weddell Sea bottom water. The volume transport of surface water equals in the in- and outflow. This means that almost all newly formed surface water is involved in the deep and bottom water formation. Comparison with the results obtained by pure velocity interpolation combined with a hydrographic data subset indicates major differences in the derived salt transports and the water mass conversion of the surface water. The differences can be explained by deviations in the structure of the upper ocean currents to which shelf areas contribute significantly. Additionally a rigorous variance analysis is performed. When only hydrographic data are used for the inversion both the gyre transport and the poleward heat transport are substantially lower. They amount to less than 40% of our best estimate while the standard deviations of both quantities are 6.5 Sv and 37×1012 W, respectively. With the help of long-term current meter measurements these errors can be reduced to 2 Sv and 8×1012 W. Our result underlines the importance of velocity data or equivalent information that helps to estimate the absolute velocities.

Key words. Oceanography: General (Arctic and antarctic oceanography) · Oceanography: Physical (General circulation; Hydrography)