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Free Content Interpreting wind-driven Southern Ocean variability in a stochastic framework

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A stochastic model is derived from wind stress and bottom pressure gauge data to examine the response of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC) transport to wind stress forcing. A general method is used to estimate the drift and diffusion coefficients of a continuous stationary Markovian system. As a first approximation, the response of the ACC to wind stress forcing can be described by a multivariate Ornstein-Uhlenbeck process: Gaussian red noise wind stress drives the evolution of the ACC transport, which is damped by a linear drag term. The model indicates that about 30(±10)% of ACC variability is directly driven by the wind stress. This stochastic model can serve as a null hypothesis for studies of wind driven ACC variability.

A more accurate stochastic description of the wind stress over the Southern Ocean requires a multiplicative noise component. The variability of the wind stress increases approximately linearly with increasing wind stress values. A multiplicative stochastic process generates a power-law distribution rather than a Gaussian distribution. A simple stochastic model shows that non-Gaussian forcing could have a significant impact on the velocity (or transport) probability density functions (PDFs) of the wind-driven circulation. The net oceanic damping determines whether the distribution of the oceanic flow is Gaussian (small damping) or resembles the distribution of the atmospheric forcing (large damping).

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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2003-05-01

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  • The Journal of Marine Research publishes peer-reviewed research articles covering a broad array of topics in physical, biological and chemical oceanography. Articles that deal with processes, as well as those that report significant observations, are welcome. In the area of biology, studies involving coupling between ecological and physical processes are preferred over those that report systematics. Authors benefit from thorough reviews of their manuscripts, where an attempt is made to maximize clarity. The time between submission and publication is kept to a minimum; there is no page charge.
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