Southern Ocean physical oceanography

Supervisory Team:

Primary supervisor: Dr Amelie Meyer

Co-supervisor: Dr Christopher Chapman (CSIRO Hobart)

Additional supervisors: N/A

Brief project description:

Characteristics and trends of fronts and meanders south of Tasmania.

The Southern Ocean is a key component of the global climate system absorbing a large fraction of anthropogenic heat and carbon. It has one of the strongest current system in the world, the Antarctic Circumpolar Current, composed of a series of fronts, meanders, and jets. These fronts, jets and meanders in the Southern Ocean have a large impact on local ocean dynamics and for the entire climate system. They influence exchanges between the ocean, atmosphere, and cryosphere in several ways: for example, fronts are sites of enhanced exchange between deep and surface waters through upwelling and subduction; Jets drive most of the ACC transport and act as a barrier to horizontal mixing; and fronts and meanders are key to the generation of mesoscale eddies and filaments.

The impact of climate change on the structure and characteristics of fronts and meanders in the SO is still under investigation. A key discussion in the field is around how to best define and identify fronts and meanders in the Southern Ocean. More recent methods based on local definitions and presence probability show trends in the shape and structure of the Agulhas-Kerguelen standing meander. Are these trends limited to the Agulhas-Kerguelen standing meander or do they exist elsewhere in the Southern Ocean?

This project aims at characterizing standing meanders and their trends in the Southern Ocean. This will be done by applying methods developed for the Agulhas-Kerguelen standing meander to other standing meanders in the Southern Ocean, with a focus for the region south of Tasmania.

Skills students will develop during this research project:

Research skills: applying scientific method to a problem; Southern Ocean dynamics knowledge; interplay of processes at various spatial and temporal scales; statistical analysis.

Analytical skills: analysing and visualizing data in Matlab; Synthesizing information; building conceptual explanations.

Communications skills: Presenting complex problems clearly; using scientific language and reporting methods; writing up a research project; designing scientific presentations.

Authorised by the Executive Director, Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies
March 24, 2021