Seasonal-to-interannual response of Southern Ocean mixed layer depth to the southern annular mode from a global 1/10° ocean model

Qian Li, Sukyoung Lee, Matthew H. England, Julie L. McClean

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


The relationship between the southern annular mode (SAM) and Southern Ocean mixed layer depth (MLD) is investigated using a global 0.18 resolution ocean model. The SAM index is defined as the principal component time series of the leading empirical orthogonal function of extratropical sea level pressure from September to December, when the zonally symmetric SAM feature is most prominent. Following positive phases of the SAM, anomalous deep mixed layers occur in the subsequent fall season, starting in May, particularly in the southeast Pacific. Composite analyses reveal that for positive SAM phases enhanced surface cooling caused by anomalously strong westerlies weakens the stratification of the water column, leading to deeper mixed layers during spring when the SAM signal is at its strongest. During the subsequent summer, the surface warms and the mixed layer shoals. However, beneath the warm surface layer, anomalously weak stratification persists throughout the summer and into fall. When the surface cools again during fall, the mixed layer readily deepens due to this weak interior stratification, a legacy from the previous springtime conditions. Therefore, the spring SAM–fall MLD relationship is interpreted here as a manifestation of reemergence of interior water mass anomalies. The opposite occurs after negative phases of the SAM, with anomalously shallow mixed layers resulting. Additional analyses reveal that for the MLD region in the southeast Pacific, the effects of salinity variations and Ekman heat advection are negligible, although Ekman heat transport may play an important role in other regions where mode water is formed, such as south of Australia and in the Indian Ocean.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6177-6195
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Climate
Issue number18
StatePublished - Sep 1 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Atmospheric Science


Dive into the research topics of 'Seasonal-to-interannual response of Southern Ocean mixed layer depth to the southern annular mode from a global 1/10° ocean model'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this