Decadal freshening of the Antarctic Bottom Water exported from the Weddell Sea
Recent decadal changes in Southern Hemisphere climate have driven strong responses from the cryosphere. Concurrently, there has been a marked freshening of the shelf and bottom waters across a wide sector of the Southern Ocean, hypothesised to be caused by accelerated glacial melt in response to a greater flux of warm waters from the Antarctic Circumpolar Current onto the shelves of West Antarctica. However, the circumpolar pattern of changes has been incomplete: no decadal freshening in the deep layers of the Atlantic sector had been observed. In this study, we document a significant freshening of the Antarctic Bottom Water exported from the Weddell Sea, which is the source for the abyssal layer of the Atlantic overturning circulation, and we trace its possible origin to atmospheric-forced changes in the ice shelves and sea ice on the eastern flank of the Antarctic Peninsula that include an anthropogenic component. These findings suggest that the expansive and relatively cool Weddell gyre does not insulate the bottom water formation regions in the Atlantic sector from the ongoing changes in climatic forcing over the Antarctic region.
Authors: Jullion, Loïc, Naveira Garabato, Alberto C., Meredith, Michael P., Holland, Paul R., Courtois, Peggy, King, Brian A.