Upwelling in the Ocean Basins North of the ACC: 2. How Cool Subantarctic Water Reaches the Surface in the Tropics

TitleUpwelling in the Ocean Basins North of the ACC: 2. How Cool Subantarctic Water Reaches the Surface in the Tropics
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2019
AuthorsToggweiler, JR, Druffel, ERM, Key, RM, Galbraith, ED
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Oceans
Pagination2609 - 2625
Date PublishedApr-04-2020
Keywordsnumerical modeling, Ocean circulation, overturning circulation, Upwelling

Large volumes of cool water are drawn up to the surface in the tropical oceans. A companion paper shows that the cool water reaches the surface in or near the upwelling zones off northern and southern Africa and Peru. The cool water has a subantarctic origin and spreads extensively across the Atlantic and Pacific basins after it reaches the surface. Here, we look at the spreading in two low-resolution ocean general circulation models and find that the spreading in the models is much less extensive than observed. The problem seems to be the way the upwelling and the spreading are connected (or not connected) to the ocean's large-scale overturning. As proposed here, the cool upwelling develops when warm buoyant water in the western tropics is drawn away to become deep water in the North Atlantic. The drawing away shoals the tropical thermocline in a way that allows cool subantarctic water to be drawn up to the surface along the eastern margins. The amounts of upwelling produced this way exceed the amounts generated by the winds in the upwelling zones by as much as 4 times. Flow restrictions make it difficult for the warm buoyant water in our models to be drawn away.

Plain Language Summary A companion paper uses the radioactive isotope carbon-14 to map the upwelling in the ocean basins north of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC). It shows that deep water drawn up to the surface to the south of the ACC is drawn up to the surface a second time in a number of upwelling areas in the tropics. In this paper, we attempt to simulate the tropical upwelling in an ocean circulation model and find that it is largely missing. Other circulation features are missing as well. The other features operate on the opposite sides of the ocean basins from the upwelling areas and help carry warm water out of the tropics (outflows). The combination of missing elements leads to a hypothesis about the upwelling mechanism. Our hypothesis is that the tropical upwelling is driven by the outflows and the fact that the warm water being carried away ultimately becomes deep water again in the North Atlantic.