Eddy-driven exchange between the open ocean and a sub-ice shelf cavity
The exchange between the open ocean and sub-ice shelf cavities is important to both water mass transformations and ice shelf melting. Here we use a high-resolution (500 m) numerical model to investigate to which degree eddies produced by frontal instability at the edge of a polynya are capable of transporting dense High Salinity Shelf Water (HSSW) underneath an ice shelf. The applied surface buoyancy flux and ice shelf geometry is based on Ronne Ice Shelf in the southern Weddell Sea, an area of intense wintertime sea ice production where a flow of HSSW into the cavity has been observed. Results show that eddies are able to enter the cavity at the southwestern corner of the polynya where an anticyclonic rim current intersects the ice shelf front. The size and time scale of simulated eddies are in agreement with observations close to the Ronne Ice Front. The properties and strength of the inflow are sensitive to the prescribed total ice production, flushing the ice shelf cavity at a rate of 0.2–0.4 × 106 m3 s−1 depending on polynya size and magnitude of surface buoyancy flux. Eddy-driven HSSW transport into the cavity is reduced by about 50% if the model grid resolution is decreased to 2-5 km and eddies are not properly resolved.
Authors: Arthun, M., Holland, P.R., Nicholls, K.W., Feltham, D.L.