Abstract: In this study, we identify the drivers of the dominant mode of sea surface height interannual variability over the Patagonian shelf using a suite of process-oriented numerical experiments. Consistent with altimetry, the dominant mode of the model sea surface height interannual variability, which accounts for approximately 84% of the total variance, exhibits a robust deterministic low-frequency variability. The weak sea surface height gradients indicate that this mode has a weak dynamical effect, but the contribution of the steric effect is shown to be non significant. Here we demonstrate that the temporal variability of this mode is not driven by heat or freshwater fluxes but by the propagation of sea surface height perturbations generated in the Pacific. In particular, we show that sea surface height interannual variability over the Patagonian shelf is influenced by wind stress forcing in the offshore region of southern Chile and by the propagation of equatorial sea surface height anomalies.
Abstract: A suite of high‐resolution numerical simulations characterizes the oceanic circulation in the Burdwood Bank (BB), a shallow seamount located in the northeastern end of the Drake Passage. Model analysis shows energetic upwelling and mixing uplifting deep and benthic waters into the photic layer. Tides and the Antarctic Circumpolar Current are the primary drivers of the bank's circulation. Tidal forcing is the main driver for the entrainment of deep waters into the upper layers of the bank and local wind forcing for the detrainment of these waters into the deep ocean. Passive tracer diagnostics suggest that the dynamical processes triggered by the BB could have a significant impact on local ecosystems and the biogeochemical balance of the southwestern Atlantic region, which is one of the most fertile portions of the Southern Ocean. Model results are robust—they are reproduced in a wide array of model configurations—but there is insufficient observational evidence to corroborate them. Satellite color imagery does not show substantial chlorophyll blooms in this region but it shows strong phytoplankton plumes emanating from the bank. There are several potential explanations for the chlorophyll deficit, including lack of light due to persistent cloud cover, deep mixing layers, fast ocean currents and the likelihood that blooms, while extant, might not develop on the surface. None of these possibilities can be confirmed at this stage.
Abstract: A high-resolution ocean model is used to characterize the local and remote driving mechanisms of the variability of the Patagonian shelf circulation. Local forcing includes the effects of tides, buoyancy fluxes and wind, while remote forcing represents the impact of the adjacent deep-ocean currents. There is an abrupt change of the dynamical characteristics of the shelf circulation at 40°S. South of 40°S, the seasonal variations of the shelf circulation are out of phase with the local wind stress and are driven by deep ocean inflows originated in the Drake Passage. The inter-annual variability of the shelf circulation is principally driven by the wind and shows a significant correlation with the time variations of the Southern Annular Mode index. The variability of the circulation and upwelling at the shelfbreak region are modulated by the variability of the Malvinas Current transport at low frequency (periods higher than two years), and by the local wind stress at higher frequencies. North of 40°S, the local wind forcing drives the seasonal variations of the shelf transport. The inter-annual variability of the flow is driven by the combined action of the Rio de la Plata discharge (significantly correlated with the El Niño Southern Oscillation), local wind stress and the Brazil-Malvinas Confluence in the outer shelf. In agreement with previous studies, we show that while the position of the confluence marks the location of the largest offshelf transports, it does not determine their magnitude. The offshelf transport variability is controlled by the local wind at high frequency (periods less than a year) and by the equatorward inflow of southern waters at longer periods. Our simulation indicates that the variability of the Subtropical Shelf Front is modulated by the local wind stress forcing, position of the Brazil/Malvinas Confluence and the equatorward inflow of Subantarctic waters.