Can we observe the fronts of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current using GRACE OBP?

Tuesday, 16 December 2014: 2:55 PM
Jessica Makowski1, Don P Chambers2 and Jennifer A Bonin2, (1)University of South Florida Tampa, Tampa, FL, United States, (2)University of South Florida, St. Petersburg, FL, United States
The Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC) and the Southern Ocean remains one of the most undersampled regions of the world’s oceans. The ACC is comprised of four major fronts: the Sub-Tropical Front (STF), the Polar Front (PF), the Sub-Antarctic Front (SAF), and the Southern ACC Front (SACCF). These were initially observed individually from repeat hydrographic sections and their approximate locations globally have been quantified using all available temperature data from the World Ocean and Climate Experiment (WOCE). More recent studies based on satellite altimetry have found that the front positions are more dynamic and have shifted south by up to 1° on average since 1993.

Using ocean bottom pressure (OBP) data from the current Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) we have measured integrated transport variability of the ACC south of Australia. However, differentiation of variability of specific fronts has been impossible due to the necessary smoothing required to reduce noise and correlated errors in the measurements. The future GRACE Follow-on (GFO) mission and the post 2020 GRACE-II mission are expected to produce higher resolution gravity fields with a monthly temporal resolution.

Here, we study the resolution and error characteristics of GRACE gravity data that would be required to resolve variations in the front locations and transport. To do this, we utilize output from a high-resolution model of the Southern Ocean, hydrology models, and ice sheet surface mass balance models; add various amounts of random and correlated errors that may be expected from GFO and GRACE-II; and quantify requirements needed for future satellite gravity missions to resolve variations along the ACC fronts.