The Effect of the Antarctic Peninsula on the Temperature Regime of the Weddell Sea

W. Schwerdtfeger Department of Meteorology, University of Wisconsin, Madison, Wis. 53706

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Abstract

Theoretical considerations as well as observational evidence lead to the conclusion that the frequent, strong, southerly and southwesterly surface winds along the east coast of the Antarctic Peninsula do not necessarily indicate the presence of a low-pressure system in the central Weddell Sea. Such winds can, and frequently do, develop when cold air masses with a pronounced surface inversion move westward over the ice-covered sea and find their way blocked by the mountains of the Peninsula. Consequently, much colder air is found east of the mountain than on their west side. For the six months of fall and winter, the average west-east surface temperature difference amounts to 12°C at 65°S. The feedback mechanisms between the surface winds in the western and northern Weddell Sea, the resulting drift of ice, and the temperature regime of the entire Weddell Sea area are examined.

Abstract

Theoretical considerations as well as observational evidence lead to the conclusion that the frequent, strong, southerly and southwesterly surface winds along the east coast of the Antarctic Peninsula do not necessarily indicate the presence of a low-pressure system in the central Weddell Sea. Such winds can, and frequently do, develop when cold air masses with a pronounced surface inversion move westward over the ice-covered sea and find their way blocked by the mountains of the Peninsula. Consequently, much colder air is found east of the mountain than on their west side. For the six months of fall and winter, the average west-east surface temperature difference amounts to 12°C at 65°S. The feedback mechanisms between the surface winds in the western and northern Weddell Sea, the resulting drift of ice, and the temperature regime of the entire Weddell Sea area are examined.

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