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Contact info

email: l.frankcombe [a]

Climate Change Research Centre (CCRC)
University of New South Wales
Sydney NSW 2052

tel: +61 (0)2 9385 8966

Southern Ocean winds and sea level

On regional scales, changes in sea level are significantly affected by local dynamical changes. Westerly winds over the Southern Ocean have been strengthening and shifting southward in recent decades, and this change is projected to continue in the future. The projected wind anomalies, when applied to a high resolution ocean model, result in a change in sea surface slope across the Antarctic Circumpolar Current such that a fall in sea level occurs around the Antarctic continental margin. The Antarctic Circumpolar Current transport and regional sea level are particularly sensitive to latitudinal shifts in the wind. In addition to the local sea level changes, Southern Ocean winds also have a global effect through changing ocean heat content and the global overturning circulation.

Southern Ocean sea level

Figure 1: Sea level change (in m) resulting from a wind speed increase of 15% (left), a southward wind shift of 4° (centre) and a combination of the wind speed increase and southward shift (right; from [1]).


[1] Frankcombe et al. (2013), Geophys. Res. Lett., vol. 40, doi:10.1002/2013GL058104.