Original paper

Ocean Dynamics

, Volume 55, Issue 2, pp 88-99

First online:

On the influence of adequate Weddell Sea characteristics in a large-scale global ocean circulation model

  • H. H. HellmerAffiliated withAlfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research Email author 
  • , M. P. SchodlokAffiliated withAlfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research
  • , M. WenzelAffiliated withAlfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research
  • , J. G. SchröterAffiliated withAlfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research

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Global ocean circulation models usually lack an adequate consideration of high-latitude processes due to a limited model domain or insufficient resolution. Without the processes in key areas of the global thermohaline circulation, the characteristics and flow of deep and bottom waters cannot be modeled realistically. In this study, a high-resolution (~20 km) ocean model focused on the Weddell Sea sector of the Southern Ocean is combined with a low-resolution (2° × 2°) global ocean model applying the state estimation technique. Temperature, salinity, and velocity data on two Weddell Sea sections from the regional model are used as constraints for the large-scale model in addition to satellite altimetry and sea-surface temperatures. The differences between the model with additional constraints and without document that the Weddell Sea circulation exerts significant influence on the course of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current with consequences for Southern Ocean water mass characteristics and the spreading of deep and bottom waters in the South Atlantic. Furthermore, a warming trend in the period 1993–2001 was found in the Weddell Sea and adjacent basins in agreement with float measurements in the upper Southern Ocean. Teleconnections to the North Atlantic are suggested but need further studies to demonstrate their statistical significance.


State estimation Adjoint method Weddell Sea Global ocean