University of Tasmania
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Upper ocean stratification and sea ice growth rates during the summer-fall transition, as revealed by Elephant seal foraging in the Ad´elie Depression, East Antarctica

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journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-17, 11:09 authored by Guy Williams, Mark HindellMark Hindell, Houssais, MN, Tamura, T, Field, IC
Southern elephant seals (Mirounga leonina), fitted with Conductivity-Temperature-Depth sensors at Macquarie Island in January 2005 and 2010, collected unique oceanographic observations of the Ad¨¦lie and George V Land continental shelf (140¨C148¡ã E) during the summer-fall transition (late February through April). This is a key region of dense shelf water formation from enhanced sea ice growth/brine rejection in the local coastal polynyas. In 2005, two seals occupied the continental shelf break near the grounded icebergs at the northern end of the Mertz Glacier Tongue for several weeks from the end of February. One of the seals migrated west to the Dibble Ice Tongue, apparently utilising the Antarctic Slope Front current near the continental shelf break. In 2010, immediately after that year's calving of the Mertz Glacier Tongue, two seals migrated to the same region but penetrated much further southwest across the Ad¨¦lie Depression and sampled the Commonwealth Bay polynya from March through April. Here we present observations of the regional oceanography during the summer-fall transition, in particular (i) the zonal distribution of modified Circumpolar Deep Water exchange across the shelf break, (ii) the upper ocean stratification across the Ad¨¦lie Depression, including alongside iceberg C-28 that calved from the Mertz Glacier and (iii) the convective overturning of the deep remnant seasonal mixed layer in Commonwealth Bay from sea ice growth. Heat and freshwater budgets to 200¨C300 m are used to estimate the ocean heat content (400¡ú50 MJ m−2), flux (50¨C200 W m−2 loss) and sea ice growth rates (maximum of 7.5¨C12.5 cm day−1). Mean seal-derived sea ice growth rates were within the range of satellite-derived estimates from 1992¨C2007 using ERA-Interim data. We speculate that the continuous foraging by the seals within Commonwealth Bay during the summer/fall transition was due to favorable feeding conditions resulting from the convective overturning of the deep seasonal mixed layer and chlorophyll maximum that is a reported feature of this location.


Publication title

Ocean Sciences








Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies


Copernicus Publications

Place of publication

Gottingen, Germany

Rights statement

Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported (CC BY 3.0)

Repository Status

  • Open

Socio-economic Objectives

Antarctic and Southern Ocean oceanic processes

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