The University of Southampton
University of Southampton Institutional Repository

The dynamics of ocean heat transport variability

Jayne, Steven R. and Marotzke, Jochem (2001) The dynamics of ocean heat transport variability Reviews of Geophysics, 39, (3), pp. 385-411.

Record type: Article


The north-south heat transport is the prime manifestation of the ocean’s role in global climate, but understanding of its variability has been fragmentary owing to uncertainties in observational analyses, limitations in models, and the lack of a convincing mechanism. We review the dynamics of global ocean heat transport variability, with an emphasis on timescales from monthly to interannual. We synthesize relatively simple dynamical ideas and show that together they explain heat transport variability in a state-of-the-art, high-resolution ocean general circulation model. Globally, the cross-equatorial, seasonal heat transport fluctuations are close to plus or minus 3x10supersccript 15 watts, the same amplitude as the seasonal, crossequatorial atmospheric energy transport. The variability is concentrated within 20 degrees of the equator and dominated by the annual cycle. The majority of the variability is due to wind-induced current fluctuations in which the time-varying wind drives Ekman layer mass transports that are compensated by depth-independent return flows. The temperature difference between the mass transports gives rise to the time-dependent heat transport. It is found that in the heat budget the divergence of the time-varying heat transport is largely balanced by changes in heat storage. Despite the Ekman transport’s strong impact on the time-dependent heat transport, the largely depth-independent character of its associated meridional overturning streamfunction means that it does not affect estimates of the timemean heat transport made by one-time hydrographic surveys. Away from the tropics, the heat transport variability associated with the depth-independent gyre and depth-dependent circulations, is much weaker than the Ekman variability. The non-Ekman contributions can amount to a 0.2–0.4x10 superscript 15 watts standard deviation in the heat transport estimated from a one-time hydrographic survey.

PDF eprint257.pdf - Version of Record
Restricted to Repository staff only
Download (3MB)

More information

Published date: 2001
Keywords: heat transport, ocean general circulation model, meridional overturning circulation, equator


Local EPrints ID: 257
PURE UUID: f016ccef-41a3-4e44-a4d9-8151afb9e36d

Catalogue record

Date deposited: 09 Dec 2003
Last modified: 17 Jul 2017 17:18

Export record


Author: Steven R. Jayne
Author: Jochem Marotzke

University divisions

Download statistics

Downloads from ePrints over the past year. Other digital versions may also be available to download e.g. from the publisher's website.

View more statistics

Atom RSS 1.0 RSS 2.0

Contact ePrints Soton:

ePrints Soton supports OAI 2.0 with a base URL of

This repository has been built using EPrints software, developed at the University of Southampton, but available to everyone to use.

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you continue without changing your settings, we will assume that you are happy to receive cookies on the University of Southampton website.