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Decoding the dynamics of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current

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  • Full or part time
    Prof C Hughes
    Dr C Wilson
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

This is an extract of the research project. Simply click on “Apply on-line” above for an instant access to the complete version.

The first stage of this project is to build a nonlinear, equivalent barotropic ocean model. This will be built using the existing two-dimensional code of a user-friendly model (two options are under consideration), with equations slightly modified to reflect equivalent-barotropic dynamics. Exploration of different parameter ranges and representations of eddies (necessary to prevent instabilities) will lead to an assessment of how realistic an ACC can be produced in this way. For comparison, we will use the latest satellite measurements of the real ACC.

Following this stage, the project can continue in any of a number of directions. Ideas concerning momentum transport by eddies could be used to add more detail to the nonlinear terms (Hughes and Ash, 2001). Further ideas concerning eddy buoyancy transports could be introduced to provide a balance which determines the vertical structure, making the shape of the equivalent-barotropic mode part of the solution and permitting the model to make predictions of heat, freshwater and carbon fluxes. Alternatively, the vertical structure could remain specified and be treated as a forcing function. The ACC response to changing winds and temperatures can then be explored on climate change timescales, or the influence of tectonic changes on geological timescales could be explored to see how the opening of Drake Passage and other constrictions led to the initial development of the ACC.

Funding Notes

Competitive tuition fee, research costs and stipend (£14,056 tax free) from the NERC Doctoral Training Partnership “Understanding the Earth, Atmosphere and Ocean” (website: led by the University of Liverpool, the National Oceanographic Centre and the University of Manchester. The studentship is granted for a period of 42 months. Further details on eligibility, how to apply, deadlines for applications and interview dates can be found on the website. EU students are eligible for a fee-only award. Note that this is a CASE project with strong interactions with industrial partner. The successful candidate will benefit from an extra £1,000.-/year (Tax free).


Hughes, C. W. (2005), Nonlinear vorticity balance of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current. J. Geophys. Res 110(C11), C11008, doi: 10.1029/2004JC002753.

Hughes, C.W., and E. R. Ash (2001), Eddy forcing of the mean flow in the Southern Ocean. J. Geophys. Res. (Oceans), 106(C2), 2713-2722, doi: 10.1029/2000JC900332.

Killworth, P. D. (1992), An equivalent‐barotropic mode in the Fine Resolution Antarctic Model, J. Phys. Oceanogr., 22, 1379–1387.

Killworth, P.D., and C.W. Hughes (2002), The Antarctic Circumpolar Current as a free equivalent-barotropic jet. J. Mar. Res., 60(1) 19-45, doi: 10.1357/002224002762341230.

Krupitsky, A. V. M. Kamenkovich, N. Kraik and M. A. Cane (1996), A linear equivalent barotropic model of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current with realistic coastlines and topography. J. Phys. Oceanogr. 26, 1803-1824.

LaCasce, J. H., and P. E. Isachsen (2010), The linear models of the ACC. Prog. in Oceanogr. 84, 139-157.

Sun, C., and D. R. Watts (2001), A circumpolar gravest empirical mode for the Southern Ocean hydrography, J. Geophys. Res., 106, 2833–2855.

Thompson, A. F., and A. C. Naveira Garabato (2014), Equilibration of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current by Standing Meanders. J. Phys. Oceanogr. 44, 1811-1828.

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