Sensitivity of the ocean's deep overturning circulation to easterly Antarctic winds



[1] We investigate the sensitivity of the deep meridional overturning circulation (MOC) in the Southern Ocean to changes in the easterly wind stress over the Antarctic continental slope. The deep MOC is driven by export of dense Antarctic Bottom Water from the Antarctic continental shelf, and exerts a strong influence on climate by ventilating the deep ocean with oxygen and storing carbon dioxide. The possibility that inter-climatic modifications of the deep overturning may have been driven by changes in the atmospheric circulation has motivated the recent interest in evaluating the sensitivity of the Southern Ocean MOC to modifications of the mid-latitude westerlies. Using a high-resolution eddy-resolving model of a sector of the Southern Ocean, we show that the deep cell of the MOC is highly sensitive to the strength of the polar easterlies, and relatively insensitive to the strength of the mid-latitude westerlies. Our results highlight that determining the deep ocean ventilation in past and future climates demands an accurate evaluation of the concurrent surface wind stress throughout the Southern Ocean.