High resolution observations of Weddell Sea surface currents using ERS-l SAR sea-ice motion vectors
AbstractTwo areas of the Weddell Sea, one in the south and one in the west, were chosen for a preliminary investigation of sea-ice motion tracking from ERSt Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) images during the Austral summer. Only a small number of images were processed, so a manual tracking method was used. In the 3–day period between SAR images the atmosphere warmed near the surface, which led to significant changes in radar backscatter from, and thus in contrast between, ice floes and the areas between them. It was therefore not always possible to track features from one image to the next. The tracked features were clearly identified in images which were sub-sampled at onesixteenth of the full resolution available. In the southern Weddell Sea images, many large floes were present which allowed a quite detailed pattern of the surface water circulation to be mapped as the ice motion was predominantly forced by the ocean currents during a period of low surface wind speeds. The observed circulation pattern agreed well with previous observations from hydrographic surveys in this area north of the Filchner Ice Shelf. In the western Weddell Sea images good tracers were hard to find, but it was still possible to detect the edge of the western boundary current of the Weddell Gyre. Continuous monitoring of sea-ice motion in these two areas using SAR imagery could be a useful means of detecting changes in surface water flow which may be linked to the rate of formation of Antarctic bottom water.
Authors: Thomas, J. P., Turner, J., Lachlan-Cope, T.A., Corcoran, G.