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Wintertime Water Mass Modification near an Antarctic Ice Front

Marius ÅrthunBritish Antarctic Survey, Cambridge, United Kingdom

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Keith W. NichollsBritish Antarctic Survey, Cambridge, United Kingdom

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Lars BoehmeSea Mammal Research Unit, University of St Andrews, St Andrews, United Kingdom

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Abstract

Under ice measurements by seals carrying a miniaturized conductivity–temperature–depth (CTD) instrument fill an important gap in existing observations. Here the authors present data from an instrumented Weddell seal that spent eight consecutive months (February–September) foraging in close proximity to the Filchner Ice Shelf, thus providing detailed information about the evolution of mixed layer hydrography during the austral autumn and winter. The resultant time series of hydrography shows strong seasonal water mass modification, dominated by an upper-ocean (0–300 m) salinity increase of 0.31, corresponding to 3.1 m sea ice growth, and the development of a 500-m thick winter mixed layer. Observations furthermore highlight a gradual salinity increase in a slow (3–5 cm s−1) southward flow on the continental shelf, toward the site, and suggest that the inferred ice production is better considered as a regional average rather than being purely local. No clear seasonality is observed in the properties of the underlying Ice Shelf Water.

Corresponding author address: Marius Årthun, British Antarctic Survey, High Cross, Madingley Road, Cambridge CB3 0ET, United Kingdom. E-mail: marun@bas.ac.uk

Abstract

Under ice measurements by seals carrying a miniaturized conductivity–temperature–depth (CTD) instrument fill an important gap in existing observations. Here the authors present data from an instrumented Weddell seal that spent eight consecutive months (February–September) foraging in close proximity to the Filchner Ice Shelf, thus providing detailed information about the evolution of mixed layer hydrography during the austral autumn and winter. The resultant time series of hydrography shows strong seasonal water mass modification, dominated by an upper-ocean (0–300 m) salinity increase of 0.31, corresponding to 3.1 m sea ice growth, and the development of a 500-m thick winter mixed layer. Observations furthermore highlight a gradual salinity increase in a slow (3–5 cm s−1) southward flow on the continental shelf, toward the site, and suggest that the inferred ice production is better considered as a regional average rather than being purely local. No clear seasonality is observed in the properties of the underlying Ice Shelf Water.

Corresponding author address: Marius Årthun, British Antarctic Survey, High Cross, Madingley Road, Cambridge CB3 0ET, United Kingdom. E-mail: marun@bas.ac.uk
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