Eddy transport as a key component of the Antarctic overturning circulation.

Thompson, Andrew, Heywood, Karen, Schmidtko, Sunke and Stewart, Andrew (2014) Eddy transport as a key component of the Antarctic overturning circulation. Nature Geoscience, 7 . pp. 879-884. DOI 10.1038/ngeo2289.

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Abstract

The exchange of water masses across the Antarctic continental shelf break regulates the export of dense shelf waters to depth as well as the transport of warm, mid-depth waters towards ice shelves and glacial grounding lines1. The penetration of the warmer mid-depth waters past the shelf break has been implicated in the pronounced loss of ice shelf mass over much of west Antarctica2, 3, 4. In high-resolution, regional circulation models, the Antarctic shelf break hosts an energetic mesoscale eddy field5, 6, but observations that capture this mesoscale variability have been limited. Here we show, using hydrographic data collected from ocean gliders, that eddy-induced transport is a primary contributor to mass and property fluxes across the slope. Measurements along ten cross-shelf hydrographic sections show a complex velocity structure and a stratification consistent with an onshore eddy mass flux. We show that the eddy transport and the surface wind-driven transport make comparable contributions to the total overturning circulation. Eddy-induced transport is concentrated in the warm, intermediate layers away from frictional boundaries. We conclude that understanding mesoscale dynamics will be critical for constraining circumpolar heat fluxes and future rates of retreat of Antarctic ice shelves.

Document Type: Article
Additional Information: WOS:000345915300015
Research affiliation: OceanRep > GEOMAR > FB1 Ocean Circulation and Climate Dynamics > FB1-PO Physical Oceanography
Refereed: Yes
Open Access Journal?: No
DOI etc.: 10.1038/ngeo2289
ISSN: 1752-0894
Date Deposited: 21 Oct 2014 07:04
Last Modified: 20 Feb 2017 14:04
URI: http://oceanrep.geomar.de/id/eprint/25840

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