Changes in the ocean transport through Drake Passage during the 1980s and 1990s, forced by changes in the Southern Annular Mode



[1] We present the first direct evidence that interannual changes in ocean transport through Drake Passage are forced by variability in the Southern Annular Mode (SAM). This evidence is derived from two decades (1980s and 1990s) of subsurface pressure measurements from the tide gauge at Faraday station (western Antarctic Peninsula), combined with the output of an ocean general circulation model. In recent decades, the SAM has moved toward a higher-index state (stronger circumpolar winds); this trend is not simply monotonic, but is the product of a long-term change in the seasonality of the SAM. Whilst we cannot address directly the effect of the long-term trend on circumpolar transport, bottom pressure data from Drake Passage during the 1990s demonstrate that ocean transport showed the same changes in seasonality as did the SAM. This offers a mechanism for atmospheric climate change to influence directly the large-scale ocean circulation.