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Dissipation of the energy imparted by mid-latitude storms in the Southern Ocean

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      The aim of this study is to clarify the role of the Southern Ocean storms on interior mixing and meridional overturning circulation. A periodic and idealized numerical model has been designed to represent the key physical processes of a zonal portion of the Southern Ocean located between 70 and 40° S. It incorporates physical ingredients deemed essential for Southern Ocean functioning: rough topography, seasonally varying air–sea fluxes, and high-latitude storms with analytical form. The forcing strategy ensures that the time mean wind stress is the same between the different simulations, so the effect of the storms on the mean wind stress and resulting impacts on the Southern Ocean dynamics are not considered in this study. Level and distribution of mixing attributable to high-frequency winds are quantified and compared to those generated by eddy–topography interactions and dissipation of the balanced flow. Results suggest that (1) the synoptic atmospheric variability alone can generate the levels of mid-depth dissipation frequently observed in the Southern Ocean (10<sup>−10</sup>–10<sup>−9</sup> W kg<sup>−1</sup>) and (2) the storms strengthen the overturning, primarily through enhanced mixing in the upper 300 m, whereas deeper mixing has a minor effect. The sensitivity of the results to horizontal resolution (20, 5, 2 and 1 km), vertical resolution and numerical choices is evaluated. Challenging issues concerning how numerical models are able to represent interior mixing forced by high-frequency winds are exposed and discussed, particularly in the context of the overturning circulation. Overall, submesoscale-permitting ocean modeling exhibits important delicacies owing to a lack of convergence of key components of its energetics even when reaching Δ<i>x</i> =  1 km.

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      Ocean Science
      Ocean Sci.
      Copernicus GmbH
      June 2016
      : 12
      : 3
      : 743-769
      © 2016

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