A model study of Circumpolar Deep Water on the West Antarctic Peninsula and Ross Sea continental shelves


M.S. Dinniman, J.M. Klinck, , and W.O. Smith, Jr.



Transport of relatively warm, nutrient-rich Circumpolar Deep Water (CDW) onto continental shelves around Antarctica has important effects on physical and biological processes. However, the characteristics of the CDW along the shelf break, as well as what happens to it once it has been advected onto the continental shelf, differ spatially. In this study high resolution (4-5 km) regional models of the Ross Sea and the west Antarctic Peninsula coastal ocean are used to compare differences in CDW transport. The models compared very well with observations from both regions. Examining the fluxes not only of heat, but also of a simulated "dye" representing CDW, shows that in both cases CDW crosses the shelf break in specific locations primarily determined by the bathymetry, but eventually floods much of the shelf. The frequency of intrusions in Marguerite Trough was ca. 2-3 per month, similar to recent mooring observations. A significant correlation between the along shelf break wind stress and the cross shelf break dye flux through Marguerite Trough was observed, suggesting that intrusions are at least partially related to short duration wind events.

The primary difference between the CDW intrusions on the Ross and west Antarctic Peninsula shelves is that there is more vigorous mixing of the CDW with the surface waters in the Ross Sea, especially in the west where High Salinity Shelf Water is created. The models show that the CDW moving across the Antarctic Peninsula continental shelf towards the base of the ice shelves not only is warmer initially and travels a shorter distance than that advected towards the base of the Ross Ice Shelf, but it is also subjected to less vertical mixing and exchange with surface waters, which conserves the heat available to be advected under the ice shelves. This difference in vertical mixing also likely leads to differences in the supply of nutrients from the CDW into the upper water column, and thus modulates the impacts on surface biogeochemical processes.




11/16/10: Revision accepted; editor letter sent to corresponding author.