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137058 - Deep bottom mixed layer drives intrinsic variability of the Antarctic Slope Front.pdf (1.85 MB)

Deep bottom mixed layer drives intrinsic variability of the Antarctic Slope Front

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journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-20, 10:17 authored by Wilma Huneke, Andreas KlockerAndreas Klocker, Benjamin Galton-FenziBenjamin Galton-Fenzi
The Antarctic Slope Front (ASF) is located along much of the Antarctic continental shelf break and helps to maintain a barrier to the movement of Circumpolar Deep Water (CDW) onto the continental shelf. The stability of the ASF has a major control on cross-shelf heat transport and ocean-driven basal melting of Antarctic ice shelves. Here, the ASF dynamics are investigated for continental shelves with weak dense shelf water (DSW) formation, which are thought to have a stable ASF, common for regions in East Antarctica. Using an ocean process model, this study demonstrates how offshore bottom Ekman transport of shelf waters leads to the development of a deep bottom mixed layer at the lower continental slope, and subsequently determines an intrinsic variability of the ASF. The ASF variability is characterized by instability events that affect the entire water column and occur every 5–10 years and last for approximately half a year. During these instability events, the cross-shelf density gradient weakens and CDW moves closer to the continent. Stronger winds increase the formation rate of the bottom mixed layer, which causes a subsequent increase of instability events. If the observed freshening trend of continental shelf waters leads to weaker DSW formation, more regions might be vulnerable for the ASF variability to develop in the future.


Publication title

Journal of Physical Oceanography








Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies


Amer Meteorological Soc

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45 Beacon St, Boston, USA, Ma, 02108-3693

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  • Open

Socio-economic Objectives

Effects of climate change on Antarctic and sub-Antarctic environments (excl. social impacts)

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