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Sensitivity of Circumpolar Deep Water Transport and Ice Shelf Basal Melt along the West Antarctic Peninsula to Changes in the Winds

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  • 1 Center for Coastal Physical Oceanography, Old Dominion University, Norfolk, Virginia
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Abstract

Circumpolar Deep Water (CDW) can be found near the continental shelf break around most of Antarctica. Advection of this relatively warm water (up to 2°C) across the continental shelf to the base of floating ice shelves is thought to be a critical source of heat for basal melting in some locations. A high-resolution (4 km) regional ocean–sea ice–ice shelf model of the west Antarctic Peninsula (WAP) coastal ocean was used to examine the effects of changes in the winds on across-shelf CDW transport and ice shelf basal melt. Increases and decreases in the strength of the wind fields were simulated by scaling the present-day winds by a constant factor. Additional simulations considered effects of increased Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC) transport. Increased wind strength and ACC transport increased the amount of CDW transported onto the WAP continental shelf but did not necessarily increase CDW flux underneath the nearby ice shelves. The basal melt underneath some of the deeper ice shelves actually decreased with increased wind strength. Increased mixing over the WAP shelf due to stronger winds removed more heat from the deeper shelf waters than the additional heat gained from increased CDW volume transport. The simulation results suggest that the effect on the WAP ice shelves of the projected strengthening of the polar westerlies is not a simple matter of increased winds causing increased (or decreased) basal melt. A simple budget calculation indicated that iron associated with increased vertical mixing of CDW could significantly affect biological productivity of this region.

Corresponding author address: Michael S. Dinniman, Center for Coastal Physical Oceanography, Old Dominion University, 4111 Monarch Way, Norfolk, VA 23508-2559. E-mail: msd@ccpo.odu.edu

Abstract

Circumpolar Deep Water (CDW) can be found near the continental shelf break around most of Antarctica. Advection of this relatively warm water (up to 2°C) across the continental shelf to the base of floating ice shelves is thought to be a critical source of heat for basal melting in some locations. A high-resolution (4 km) regional ocean–sea ice–ice shelf model of the west Antarctic Peninsula (WAP) coastal ocean was used to examine the effects of changes in the winds on across-shelf CDW transport and ice shelf basal melt. Increases and decreases in the strength of the wind fields were simulated by scaling the present-day winds by a constant factor. Additional simulations considered effects of increased Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC) transport. Increased wind strength and ACC transport increased the amount of CDW transported onto the WAP continental shelf but did not necessarily increase CDW flux underneath the nearby ice shelves. The basal melt underneath some of the deeper ice shelves actually decreased with increased wind strength. Increased mixing over the WAP shelf due to stronger winds removed more heat from the deeper shelf waters than the additional heat gained from increased CDW volume transport. The simulation results suggest that the effect on the WAP ice shelves of the projected strengthening of the polar westerlies is not a simple matter of increased winds causing increased (or decreased) basal melt. A simple budget calculation indicated that iron associated with increased vertical mixing of CDW could significantly affect biological productivity of this region.

Corresponding author address: Michael S. Dinniman, Center for Coastal Physical Oceanography, Old Dominion University, 4111 Monarch Way, Norfolk, VA 23508-2559. E-mail: msd@ccpo.odu.edu
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