Cold core eddies and fronts of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current south of New Zealand from in situ and satellite data



[1] The meridional heat flux required to balance the heat lost by ocean to atmosphere at high latitudes must be accomplished by some mechanism other than mean advection and the heat flux by eddies crossing the Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC) may be a candidate. In this study, the positions of the main ACC fronts are determined based on 23 expendable bathythermographs (XBT) transects collected from 1994 to 2010 and are compared with those detected through satellite altimetry. Then, cold core anomalies in XBT sections are identified and altimetry is used to follow the spatial-temporal evolution of these cold, low sea level anomalies. Mean values of main parameters, such as speed (0.35 km/h), lifetime (79 weeks), and diameter (105 km), are estimated. Moreover, estimations of rotational speed (0.9–76.8 cm/s), ocean surface layer heat content along temperature sections and eddy available heat anomaly (mean value −9.74 × 109 Jm−2) give a wider description of the detected eddies. In our study area, the spawning of eddies is found to occur downstream of the Southeast Indian Ridge and in correspondence of the polar front (PF) with regard to the ACC frontal structure. The contribution of eddies to the global heat budget is not only linked to their ability to cross the ACC fronts but also to the capacity of keeping partially unaltered the properties of water inside them. Analysis of the relation between the translation and rotational speeds shows that a typical eddy may effectively be a significant part (0.8%) of the net meridional heat transport across the PF with a mean heat content/anomaly of −7.65 × 1019 J.