Estimates of wind energy input to the Ekman layer in the Southern Ocean from surface drifter data

Shane Elipot, Sarah T. Gille

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


The energy input to the upper ocean Ekman layer is assessed for the Southern Ocean by examining the rotary cross spectrum between wind stress and surface velocity for frequencies between 0 and 2 cpd. The wind stress is taken from European Center for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts ERA-40 reanalysis, and drifter measurements from 15 m depth are used to represent surface velocities, with an adjustment to account for the vertical structure of the upper ocean. The energy input occurs mostly through the nonzero frequencies rather than the mean. Phenomenologically, the combination of a stronger anticyclonic wind stress forcing associated with a greater anticyclonic response makes the contribution from the anticyclonic frequencies dominate the wind energy input. The latitudinal and seasonal variations of the wind energy input to the Ekman layer are closely related to the variations of the wind stress, both for the mean and for the time-varying components. The contribution from the near-inertial band follows a different trend, increasing from 30°S to about 45°S and decreasing further south, possibly a consequence of the lack of variance in this band in the drifter and wind stress data.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberC06003
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Oceans
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 8 2009
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Geophysics
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Oceanography


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