Eddy heat flux across the Antarctic Circumpolar Current estimated from sea surface height standard deviation

Annie Foppert, Kathleen A. Donohue, D. Randolph Watts, Karen L. Tracey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Eddy heat flux (EHF) is a predominant mechanism for heat transport across the zonally unbounded mean flow of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC). Observations of dynamically relevant, divergent, 4 year mean EHF in Drake Passage from the cDrake project, as well as previous studies of atmospheric and oceanic storm tracks, motivates the use of sea surface height (SSH) standard deviation, H*, as a proxy for depth-integrated, downgradient, time-mean EHF ((Formula presented.)) in the ACC. Statistics from the Southern Ocean State Estimate corroborate this choice and validate throughout the ACC the spatial agreement between H* and (Formula presented.) seen locally in Drake Passage. Eight regions of elevated (Formula presented.) are identified from nearly 23.5 years of satellite altimetry data. Elevated cross-front exchange usually does not span the full latitudinal width of the ACC in each region, implying a hand-off of heat between ACC fronts and frontal zones as they encounter the different (Formula presented.) hot spots along their circumpolar path. Integrated along circumpolar streamlines, defined by mean SSH contours, there is a convergence of (Formula presented.) in the ACC: 1.06 PW enters from the north and 0.02 PW exits to the south. Temporal trends in low-frequency [EHF] are calculated in a running-mean sense using H* from overlapping 4 year subsets of SSH. Significant increases in downgradient [EHF] magnitude have occurred since 1993 at Kerguelen Plateau, Southeast Indian Ridge, and the Brazil-Malvinas Confluence, whereas the other five (Formula presented.) hot spots have insignificant trends of varying sign.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6947-6964
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Oceans
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Southern Ocean
  • eddy heat flux


Dive into the research topics of 'Eddy heat flux across the Antarctic Circumpolar Current estimated from sea surface height standard deviation'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this