EGU21-15807, updated on 04 Mar 2021
EGU General Assembly 2021
© Author(s) 2021. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Linking submesoscale fronts and air-sea heat fluxes in the Southern Ocean: Results from the first Saildrone circumnavigation of Antarctica

Hanna S. Rosenthal1, Louise C. Biddle1, Sebastiaan Swart1, Sarah T. Gille2, and Matthew R. Mazloff2
Hanna S. Rosenthal et al.
  • 1Department of Marine Science, University of Gothenburg, Gothenburg, Sweden
  • 2Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, California, USA.

The role of the Southern Ocean in the global heat and carbon cycle is fundamental towards our climate, but observational data to quantify air-sea fluxes, such as surface  heat  fluxes, are  still  scarce. In  order  to  investigate  the  effects  of  fine- scale oceanic fronts (0.1 km–10 km) on air-sea fluxes in the Southern Ocean, high-resolution  hydrographic  and  meteorological  data  collected  by  three  un-crewed surface vehicles (Saildrones) during their first Circumnavigation of Antarctica in 2019 was assessed. Comparisons of key variables from the in situ Saildrones datasets with those from ERA5 and a stationary mooring show good  agreement.  Temperature-driven density fronts were detected in the Saildrone data and their impact on the turbulent heat flux was quantified during steady atmospheric conditions.  Over 2000 surface ocean temperature dominated density fronts were detected at length-scales (i.e.  front width) ranging from sub-kilometer to mesoscale (order of 0.1 km–100 km). 
Temperature-driven density fronts with a length scale (as seen from the Saildrones perspective ) smaller than 1 km contributed 75% and 51% of the sensible and latent heat flux changes, respectively. The direct link between the fronts and the impact on the heat fluxes decreases sharply  when the front length increases. This suggests that smaller (submesoscale) fronts have a larger impact on heat flux variability than larger (balanced) fronts . The parametrization of  these  fine-scale ocean-atmospheric processes  in  global climate  models  could  lead to more accurate  representations  of  the  heat  flux  variability both at local and global scale.

How to cite: Rosenthal, H. S., Biddle, L. C., Swart, S., Gille, S. T., and Mazloff, M. R.: Linking submesoscale fronts and air-sea heat fluxes in the Southern Ocean: Results from the first Saildrone circumnavigation of Antarctica, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-15807,, 2021.

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