Dynamics of extreme wind events in the marine and terrestrial sectors of coastal Antarctica

Antarctic coastal surface winds affect ice-sheet stability, sea ice, and local ecosystems. The strongest coastal winds are especially important due to the nonlinear relationship between wind speed and wind stress. We investigate the dynamics of extreme coastal winds using a simplified momentum budget calculated across the period 2010–2020 from the ERA5 reanalysis. The pressure-gradient forcing term in the budget is decomposed into a large-scale component and one associated with the temperature deficit layer. The role of budget terms across the coastal sector is compared for weak and strong winds. We then calculate composites of the top 100 easterly wind events across six east Antarctic coastal sectors, identifying terms responsible for the evolution of coastal extremes. A simple balance of terms exists offshore, dominated by large-scale forcing, contrasting with the complex balance in the onshore sector where katabatic forcing is large. Large-scale forcing explains 57% of offshore coastal wind-speed variance overall, improving to 81% when budget terms associated with the temperature deficit layer and horizontal advection are included, with significant regional variation. The residual term plays an increasingly active role as wind speed increases. Extremes in all coastal sectors are associated with a synoptic-scale transient dipole of pressure anomalies driving warm-air advection. Although katabatic forcing is a very large term in magnitude, it is found to play a passive role, declining as wind speeds increase during extreme conditions. In some regions, an anomalous southerly component develops during extremes, which we attribute to an ageostrophic barrier wind. This research underscores the major role for large-scale forcing in Antarctica's coastal winds, but also reveals a significant regional locally driven component. The results have implications for improving numerical model simulations of coastal easterlies and for studying their impacts on ocean circulation, sea ice, and ice-shelf basal melt.


Publication status:
Published Online
Authors: Caton Harrison, Thomas ORCIDORCID record for Thomas Caton Harrison, King, John C. ORCIDORCID record for John C. King, Bracegirdle, Thomas J. ORCIDORCID record for Thomas J. Bracegirdle, Lu, Hua ORCIDORCID record for Hua Lu

On this site: Hua Lu, John King, Thomas Caton Harrison, Thomas Bracegirdle
11 April, 2024
Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society
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