Publications

In Press
Stewart AL, Wang Y, Solodoch A, Chen R, McWilliams JC. Formation of eastern boundary undercurrents via mesoscale eddy rectification. Journal of Physical Oceanography. In Press.
Submitted
Meng S, Stewart AL, Manucharyan G. Circumpolar transport and overturning strength inferred from satellite observables using Deep Learning in an eddying Southern Ocean channel model. Journal of Advances in Modeling Earth Systems. Submitted.
Jeffree J, Hogg AMC, Morrison AK, Solodoch A, Stewart AL, McGirr R. GRACE satellite observations of Antarctic Bottom Water transport variability. Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans. Submitted.
Chen R, Yang Y, Geng Q, Stewart AL, Flierl G, WANG J. A diagnostic framework linking eddy flux ellipse with eddy-mean energy exchange. Ocean-Land-Atmosphere Research. Submitted.
Moscoso JE, Bianchi D, Stewart AL. Controls of cross-shore planktonic ecosystem structure in Eastern Boundary Upwelling Systems. Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans. Submitted.
2024
Finucane GD, Stewart AL. A predictive theory for heat transport into ice shelf cavities. Geophysical Research Letters [Internet]. 2024;51 (10) :e2024GL108196. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Antarctic ice shelves are losing mass at drastically different rates, primarily due to differing rates of oceanic heat supply to their bases. However, a generalized theory for the inflow of relatively warm water into ice shelf cavities is lacking. This study proposes such a theory based on a geostrophically constrained inflow, combined with a threshold bathymetric elevation, the Highest Unconnected isoBath (HUB), that obstructs warm water access to ice shelf grounding lines. This theory captures ∼ 90% of the variance in melt rates across a suite of idealized process-oriented ocean/ice shelf simulations with quasi-randomized geometries. Applied to observations of ice shelf geometries and offshore hydrography, the theory captures ∼80% of the variance in measured ice shelf melt rates. These findings provide a generalized theoretical framework for melt resulting from buoyancy-driven warm water access to geometrically complex Antarctic ice shelf cavities.
Si Y, Stewart AL, Silvano A, Garabato ACN. Antarctic slope undercurrent and onshore heat transport driven by ice shelf melting. Science Advances [Internet]. 2024;10 :eadl0601. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Elevated ice shelf melt rates in West Antarctica have been attributed to transport of warm Circumpolar Deep Water (CDW) onto the continental shelf via bathymetric troughs. These inflows are supplied by an eastward, subsurface slope current (referred to as the Antarctic Slope Undercurrent) that opposes the westward momentum input from local winds and tides. Despite its importance to basal melt, the mechanism via which the undercurrent forms, and thus what controls the shoreward heat transport, remains unclear. In this study, the dynamics of the undercurrent are investigated using high-resolution process-oriented simulations with coupled ocean, sea ice, and ice shelf components. It is shown that the bathymetric steering of the undercurrent toward the ice shelf is driven by upwelling of meltwater within the ice shelf cavity. Increased basal melt therefore strengthens the undercurrent and enhances onshore CDW transport, which indicates a positive feedback that may accelerate future melt of ice shelves, potentially further destabilizing the West Antarctic Ice Sheet.
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Han X, Stewart AL, Chen D, Janout M, Liu X, Wang Z, Gordon AL. Circum-Antarctic bottom water formation mediated by tides and topographic waves. Nature Communications [Internet]. 2024;15 :2049. Publisher's VersionAbstract
The downslope plumes of dense shelf water (DSW) are critical for the formation of Antarctic Bottom Water (AABW), and thus to the exchange of heatand carbon between surface and abyssal ocean. Previous studies have shownthat tides and overflow-forced topographic Rossby waves (TRWs) may have strong impact on the downslope transport of DSW, but it remains unclear how the combined action of these two processes influence the descent processes of DSW, and of the resulting AABW properties. Here, with a synthesis of historical in situ observations and a set of numerical model experiments, we show that tides and TRWs play comparable roles in AABW formation: they both act to accelerate DSW descent to the abyss, leading to the formation of colder and denser AABW. Yet, tides have little impact on AABW formation unless the continental slope is steep enough to suppress TRW generation. We further characterize the dynamical regimes of dense overflows around the entire Antarctic continent based on the relative importance of TRWs versus tides. These findings highlight the pervasive role of high-frequency processes, which are not well represented in the present climate models, in the formation of AABW, and thus in the global overturning circulation.
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2023
Chang EKM, Wolfe CLP, Stewart AL, McWilliams JC. Comments on “Horizontal gravity disturbance vector in atmospheric dynamics” by Peter C. Chu. Dynamics of Atmospheres and Oceans [Internet]. 2023;103 :101382. Publisher's VersionAbstract
In a recent paper [Chu (2023; Chu23)], the author formulated the equations governing atmospheric motion in a spheroidal coordinate system. Since the mass distribution of the Earth is not exactly spheroidal, the true gravity is not vertical in that coordinate system. Chu23 compared the magnitude of the static horizontal component of gravity in that system to those of the dynamically active forces and concluded that the horizontal components of gravity should not be neglected. In recent papers by the authors [Chang and Wolfe (2022; CW22) and Stewart and McWilliams (2022; CW22)], we explained that the actual interpretation of the approximation made in atmospheric and oceanic modeling is not neglecting the horizontal component of the true gravity, but is a geometrical approximation, approximating nearly spheroidal geopotential surfaces with bumps on which the true gravity is vertical by exactly spheroidal surfaces. We showed that under such an interpretation, the errors due to the geometrical approximation are small. Chu23 claimed that CW22 and SM22 erroneously neglected the gravity perturbations in their analyses. Here, we explain further the differences between these approaches, in the process showing that the criticisms of Chu23 on CW22 and SM22 are invalid, further supporting our conclusion that the horizontal component of the true gravity is not relevant in ocean and atmospheric dynamics. Physically, the reason why horizontal gravity is irrelevant in the coordinate system used by Chu23 is that it is balanced by a static horizontal pressure gradient force.
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Silvano A, Purkey S, Gordon AL, Castagno P, Stewart AL, Rintoul S, Foppert A, Gunn KL, Herraiz-Borreguero L, Aoki S, et al. Observing Antarctic Bottom Water in the Southern Ocean. Frontiers in Marine Science [Internet]. 2023;10. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Dense, cold waters formed on Antarctic continental shelves descend along the Antarctic continental margin, where they mix with other Southern Ocean waters to form Antarctic Bottom Water (AABW). AABW then spreads into the deepest parts of all major ocean basins, isolating heat and carbon from the atmosphere for centuries. Despite AABW’s key role in regulating Earth’s climate on long time scales and in recording Southern Ocean conditions, AABW remains poorly observed. This lack of observational data is mostly due to two factors. First, AABW originates on the Antarctic continental shelf and slope where in situ measurements are limited and ocean observations by satellites are hampered by persistent sea ice cover and long periods of darkness in winter. Second, north of the Antarctic continental slope, AABW is found below approximately 2 km depth, where in situ observations are also scarce and satellites cannot provide direct measurements. Here, we review progress made during the past decades in observing AABW. We describe 1) long-term monitoring obtained by moorings, by ship-based surveys, and beneath ice shelves through bore holes; 2) the recent development of autonomous observing tools in coastal Antarctic and deep ocean systems; and 3) alternative approaches including data assimilation models and satellite-derived proxies. The variety of approaches is beginning to transform our understanding of AABW, including its formation processes, temporal variability, and contribution to the lower limb of the global ocean meridional overturning circulation. In particular, these observations highlight the key role played by winds, sea ice, and the Antarctic Ice Sheet in AABW-related processes. We conclude by discussing future avenues for observing and understanding AABW, impressing the need for a sustained and coordinated observing system.
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Han X, Stewart AL, Chen D, Liu X, Lian T. Controls of topographic Rossby wave properties and downslope transport in dense overflows. Journal of Physical Oceanography [Internet]. 2023;53 :1805-1820. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Antarctic Bottom Water is primarily formed via overflows of dense shelf water (DSW) around the Antarctic continental margins. The dynamics of these overflows therefore influence the global abyssal stratification and circulation. Previous studies indicate that dense overflows can be unstable, energizing topographic Rossby waves (TRW) over the continental slope. However, it remains unclear how the wavelength and frequency of the TRWs are related to the properties of the overflowing DSW and other environmental conditions, and how the TRW properties influence the downslope transport of DSW. This study uses idealized high-resolution numerical simulations to investigate the dynamics of overflow-forced TRWs and the associated downslope transport of DSW. It is shown that the propagation of TRWs is constrained by the geostrophic along-slope flow speed of the DSW and by the dynamics of linear plane waves, allowing the wavelength and frequency of the waves to be predicted a priori. The rate of downslope DSW transport depends nonmonotonically on the slope steepness: steep slopes approximately suppress TRW formation, resulting in steady, frictionally dominated DSW descent. For slopes of intermediate steepness, the overflow becomes unstable and generates TRWs, accompanied by interfacial form stresses that drive DSW downslope relatively rapidly. For gentle slopes, the TRWs lead to the formation of coherent eddies that inhibit downslope DSW transport. These findings may explain the variable properties of TRWs observed in oceanic overflows, and they imply that the rate at which DSW descends to the abyssal ocean depends sensitively on the manifestation of TRWs and/or nonlinear eddies over the continental slope.
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Jeong H, Lee S-S, Park H-S, Stewart AL. Future changes in Antarctic coastal polynyas and bottom water formation simulated by a high-resolution coupled model. Communications Earth & Environment [Internet]. 2023;4. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Antarctic coastal polynyas produce Dense Shelf Water, a precursor to Antarctic Bottom Waters that supply the global abyssal circulation. Future projections of Dense Shelf Water formation are hindered by unresolved small-scale atmosphere-sea ice-ocean interactions in polynyas. Here, we investigate the future evolution of Antarctic coastal polynyas using a high-resolution ocean-ice-atmosphere model. We find that wintertime sea ice production rates remain active even under elevated atmospheric CO2 concentrations. Antarctic winter sea ice production rates are sensitive to atmospheric CO2 concentrations: doubling CO2 (734 ppm) decreases sea ice production by only 6–8%, versus 10–30% under CO2 quadrupling (1468 ppm). While considerable uncertainty remains in future ice-shelf basal melting, which is not accounted for in this study, doubling or quadrupling CO2 substantially freshens Dense Shelf Water due to increased precipitation. Consequently, doubling CO2 weakens Dense Shelf Water formation by ~ 75%, while CO2 quadrupling shuts down Dense Shelf Water formation.
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Solodoch A, Stewart AL, Hogg AMC, Manucharyan G. Machine Learning-Derived Inference of the Meridional Overturning Circulation from Satellite-Observable Variables in an Ocean State Estimate. Journal of Advances in Modeling Earth Systems [Internet]. 2023;15 :e2022MS003370. Publisher's VersionAbstract
The oceanic Meridional Overturning Circulation (MOC) plays a key role in the climate system, and monitoring its evolution is a scientific priority. Monitoring arrays have been established at several latitudes in the Atlantic Ocean, but other latitudes and oceans remain unmonitored for logistical reasons. This study explores the possibility of inferring the MOC from globally-available satellite measurements via machine learning (ML) techniques, using the ECCOV4 state estimate as a test bed. The methodological advantages of the present approach include the use purely of available satellite data, its applicability to multiple basins within a single ML framework, and the ML model simplicity (a feed-forward fully connected neural network (NN) with small number of neurons). The ML model exhibits high skill in MOC reconstruction in the Atlantic, Indo-Pacific, and Southern Oceans. The approach achieves a higher skill in predicting the model Southern Ocean abyssal MOC than has previously been achieved via a dynamically-based approach. The skill of the model is quantified as a function of latitude in each ocean basin, and of the time scale of MOC variability. We find that ocean bottom pressure generally has the highest reconstruction skill potential, followed by zonal wind stress. We additionally test which combinations of variables are optimal. Furthermore, ML interpretability techniques are used to show that high reconstruction skill in the Southern Ocean is mainly due to (NN processing of) bottom pressure variability at a few prominent bathymetric ridges. Finally, the potential for reconstructing MOC strength estimates from real satellite measurements is discussed.
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Stewart AL, Neumann NK, Solodoch A. "Eddy" saturation of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current by standing waves. Journal of Physical Oceanography [Internet]. 2023;53 :1161-1181. Publisher's VersionAbstract
It is now well established that changes in the zonal wind stress over the Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC) do not lead to changes in its baroclinicity nor baroclinic transport, a phenomenon referred to as “eddy saturation.” Previous studies provide contrasting dynamical mechanisms for this phenomenon: on one extreme, changes in the winds lead to changes in the efficiency with which transient eddies transfer momentum to the sea floor; on the other extreme, structural adjustments of the ACC’s standing meanders increase the efficiency of momentum transfer. In this study the authors investigate the relative importance of these mechanisms using an idealized, isopycnal channel model of the ACC. Via separate diagnoses of the model’s time-mean flow and eddy diffusivity, the authors decompose the model’s response to changes in wind stress into contributions from transient eddies and the mean flow. A key result is that holding the transient eddy diffusivity constant while varying the mean flow very closely compensates for changes in the wind stress, whereas holding the mean flow constant and varying the eddy diffusivity does not. This implies that eddy saturation primarily occurs due to adjustments in the ACC’s standing waves/meanders, rather than due to adjustments of transient eddy behavior. The authors derive a quasigeostrophic theory for ACC transport saturation by standing waves, in which the transient eddy diffusivity is held fixed, and thus provides dynamical insights into standing wave adjustment to wind changes. These findings imply that representing eddy saturation in global models requires adequate resolution of the ACC’s standing meanders, with wind-responsive parameterizations of the transient eddies being of secondary importance.
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Schmidgall CR, Si Y, Stewart AL, Thompson AF, Hogg AMC. Dynamical Controls on Bottom Water Transport and Transformation across the Antarctic Circumpolar Current. Journal of Physical Oceanography [Internet]. 2023;53 :1917-1940. Publisher's VersionAbstract
The export of Antarctic Bottom Water (AABW) supplies the bottom cell of the global overturning circulation and plays a key role in regulating climate. This AABW outflow must cross, and is therefore mediated by, the Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC). Previous studies present widely varying conceptions of the role of the ACC in directing AABW across the Southern Ocean, suggesting either that AABW may be zonally recirculated by the ACC, or that AABW may flow northward within deep western boundary currents (DWBC) against bathymetry. In this study the authors investigate how the forcing and geometry of the ACC influences the transport and transformation of AABW using a suite of process-oriented model simulations. The model exhibits a strong dependence on the elevation of bathymetry relative to AABW layer thickness: higher meridional ridges suppress zonal AABW exchange, increase the strength of flow in the DWBC, and reduce the meridional variation in AABW density across the ACC. Furthermore, the transport and transformation vary with density within the AABW layer, with denser varieties of AABW being less efficiently transported between basins. These findings indicate that changes in the thickness of the AABW layer, for example, due to changes in Antarctic shelf processes, and tectonic changes in the sea floor shape may alter the pathways and transformation of AABW across the ACC.
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Zhao KX, Stewart AL, McWilliams JC, Fenty IG, Rignot EJ. Standing Eddies in Glacial Fjords and their Role in Fjord Circulation and Melt. Journal of Physical Oceanography [Internet]. 2023;53 :821-840. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Glacial fjord circulation modulates the connection between marine-terminating glaciers and the ocean currents offshore. These fjords exhibit a complex 3D circulation with overturning and horizontal recirculation components, which are both primarily driven by water mass transformation at the head of the fjord via subglacial discharge plumes and distributed meltwater plumes. However, little is known about the 3D circulation in realistic fjord geometries. In this study, we present high-resolution numerical simulations of three glacial fjords (Ilulissat, Sermilik, and Kangerdlugssuaq), which exhibit along-fjord overturning circulations similar to previous studies. However, one important new phenomenon that deviates from previous results is the emergence of multiple standing eddies in each of the simulated fjords, as a result of realistic fjord geometries. These standing eddies are long-lived, take months to spin up, and prefer locations over the widest regions of deep-water fjords, with some that periodically merge with other eddies. The residence time of Lagrangian particles within these eddies are significantly larger than waters outside of the eddies. These eddies are most significant for two reasons: 1) they account for a majority of the vorticity dissipation required to balance the vorticity generated by discharge and meltwater plume entrainment and act to spin down the overall recirculation and 2) if the eddies prefer locations near the ice face, their azimuthal velocities can significantly increase melt rates. Therefore, the existence of standing eddies is an important factor to consider in glacial fjord circulation and melt rates and should be taken into account in models and observations.
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Si Y, Stewart AL, Eisenman I. Heat transport across the Antarctic Slope Front controlled by cross-slope salinity gradients. Science Advances [Internet]. 2023;9 :eadd7049. Publisher's VersionAbstract
The Antarctic Slope Front (ASF) is a strong gradient in water mass properties close to the Antarctic margins, separating warm water from the Antarctic ice sheet. Heat transport across the ASF is important to Earth’s climate, as it influences melting of ice shelves, the formation of bottom water, and thus the global meridional overturning circulation. Previous studies based on relatively low-resolution global models have reported contradictory findings regarding the impact of additional meltwater on heat transport toward the Antarctic continental shelf: It remains unclear whether meltwater enhances shoreward heat transport, leading to a positive feedback, or further isolates the continental shelf from the open ocean. In this study, heat transport across the ASF is investigated using eddy- and tide-resolving, process-oriented simulations. It is found that freshening of the fresh coastal waters leads to increased shoreward heat flux, which implies a positive feedback in a warming climate: Increased meltwater will increase shoreward heat transport, causing further melt of ice shelves.
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Jagannathan A, Srinivasan K, McWilliams JC, Molemaker MJ, Stewart AL. Evolution of bottom boundary layers on three dimensional topography - Buoyancy adjustment and instabilities. Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans [Internet]. 2023;127 :e2023JC019705. Publisher's VersionAbstract
A current along a sloping bottom gives rise to upwelling, or downwelling Ekman transport within the stratified bottom boundary layer (BBL), also known as the bottom Ekman layer. In 1D models of slope currents, geostrophic vertical shear resulting from horizontal buoyancy gradients within the BBL is predicted to eventually bring the bottom stress to zero, leading to a shutdown, or “arrest,” of the BBL. Using 3D ROMS simulations, we explore how the dynamics of buoyancy adjustment in a current-ridge encounter problem differs from 1D and 2D temporal spin up problems. We show that in a downwelling BBL, the destruction of the ageostrophic BBL shear, and hence the bottom stress, is accomplished primarily by nonlinear straining effects during the initial topographic encounter. As the current advects along the ridge slopes, the BBL deepens and evolves toward thermal wind balance. The onset of negative potential vorticitymodes of instability and their subsequent dissipation partially offsets the reduction of the BBL dissipation during the ridge-current interaction. On the upwelling side, although the bottom stress weakens substantially during the encounter, the BBL experiences a horizontal inflectional point instability and separates from the slopes before sustained along-slope stress reduction can occur. In all our solutions, both the upwelling and downwelling BBLs are in a partially arrested state when the current separates from the ridge slope, characterized by a reduced, but non-zero bottom stress on the slopes.
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2022
Silvano A, Holland P, Naughten K, Dragomir O, Dutrieux P, Jenkins A, Si Y, Stewart AL, Pena-Molino B, Janzing G, et al. Baroclinic ocean response to climate forcing regulates decadal variability of ice-shelf melting in the Amundsen Sea. Geophysical Research Letters [Internet]. 2022;49 :e2022GL100646. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Warm ocean waters drive rapid ice-shelf melting in the Amundsen Sea. The ocean heat transport toward the ice shelves is associated with the Amundsen Undercurrent, a near-bottom current that flows eastward along the shelf break and transports warm waters onto the continental shelf via troughs. Here we use a regional ice-ocean model to show that, on decadal time scales, the undercurrent's variability is baroclinic (depth-dependent). Decadal ocean surface cooling in the tropical Pacific results in cyclonic wind anomalies over the Amundsen Sea. These wind anomalies drive a westward perturbation of the shelf-break surface flow and an eastward anomaly (strengthening) of the undercurrent, leading to increased ice-shelf melting. This contrasts with shorter time scales, for which surface current and undercurrent covary, a barotropic (depth-independent) behavior previously assumed to apply at all time scales. This suggests that interior ocean processes mediate the decadal ice-shelf response in the Amundsen Sea to climate forcing.
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Wei H, Wang Y, Stewart AL, Mak J. Scalings for eddy buoyancy fluxes across prograde shelf/slope fronts. Journal of Advances in Modeling Earth Systems [Internet]. 2022;14 (12) :e2022MS003229. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Depth-averaged eddy buoyancy diffusivities across continental shelves and slopes are investigated using a suite of eddy-resolving, process-oriented simulations of prograde frontal currents characterized by isopycnals tilted in the opposite direction to the seafloor, a flow regime commonly found along continental margins under downwelling-favorable winds or occupied by buoyant boundary currents. The diagnosed cross-slope eddy diffusivity varies by up to three orders of magnitude, decaying from jame21742-math-0001 in the relatively flat-bottomed region to jame21742-math-0002 over the steep continental slope, consistent with previously reported suppression effects of steep topography on baroclinic eddy fluxes. To theoretically constrain the simulated cross-slope eddy fluxes, we examine extant scalings for eddy buoyancy diffusivities across prograde shelf/slope fronts and in flat-bottomed oceans. Among all tested scalings, the GEOMETRIC framework developed by D. P. Marshall et al. (2012, https://doi.org/10.1175/JPO-D-11-048.1) and a parametrically similar Eady scale-based scaling proposed by Jansen et al. (2015, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ocemod.2015.05.007) most accurately reproduce the diagnosed eddy diffusivities across the entire shelf-to-open-ocean analysis regions in our simulations. This result relies upon the incorporation of the topographic suppression effects on eddy fluxes, quantified via analytical functions of the slope Burger number, into the scaling prefactor coefficients. The predictive skills of the GEOMETRIC and Eady scale-based scalings are shown to be insensitive to the presence of along-slope topographic corrugations. This work lays a foundation for parameterizing eddy buoyancy fluxes across large-scale prograde shelf/slope fronts in coarse-resolution ocean models.
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