Lagrangian simulation of transport pathways and residence times along the Western Antarctic Peninsula


Andrea Piñones, Eileen E. Hofmann, Michael S. Dinniman, and John M. Klinck



The relative contribution of circulation in producing areas where marine mammals and other predators concentrate to produce biological hot spots along the continental shelf of the western Antarctic Peninsula (wAP) was investigated with numerical Lagrangian particle tracking simulations. Circulation distributions used in the Lagrangian simulations were obtained from the the Regional Ocean Modeling System (ROMS) configured for the wAP region, with a horizontal resolution of 4 km and a vertical resolution of 24 sigma-layers. To determine release points for the floats, the simulated circulation fields were first analyzed to estimate scales of temporal variability. The temporal decorrelation scales of the simulated surface flow over most of the wAP shelf were 2-3 days. However, decorrelation scales of about 40 days were found for the surface flow in the southern part of Marguerite Bay. Temporal decorrelation scales for the flow below the permanent pycnocline at the depth of Circumpolar Deep Water (CDW) intrusions (below 250 m) were between 40-70 days along the northern flank of Marguerite Trough and extending into Marguerite Bay. Near Adelaide Island, Anvers Island and the offshore side of Alexander Island, the velocity decorrelation scales varied between 40 and 60 days.

Floats were released in the wAP simulated circulation fields along the outer and mid-shelf at a range of depths in different seasons. The simulated particle trajectories showed preferred sites for across-shelf transport, with Marguerite Trough being a primary pathway for movement of floats into Marguerite Bay, Crystal Sound and the inner shelf region. The three primary biological hot spots, Crystal Sound, Laubeuf Fjord, and off Alexander Island, were sites with the longest particle residence times, being 18-27 days for Alexander Island and Crystal Sound to almost 35 days for Laubeuf Fjord. However, the source regions and circulation processes that provided the input of particles differed for each site. The Lagrangian particle tracking results show the importance of the circulation in developoing localized biological hot spots along the wAP, perhaps by facilitating aggregation of planktonic prey.


07/29/10: Revision accepted; editor acceptance sent to corresponding author.