Ice-shelf – ocean interactions at Fimbul Ice Shelf, Antarctica from oxygen isotope ratio measurements

Melt water from the floating ice shelves at the margins of the southeastern Weddell Sea makes a significant contribution to the fresh water budget of the region. In February 2005 a multi-institution team conducted an oceanographic campaign at Fimbul Ice Shelf on the Greenwich Meridian as part of the Autosub Under Ice programme. This included a mission of the autonomous submarine Autosub 25 km into the cavity beneath Fimbul Ice Shelf, and a number of ship-based hydrographic sections on the continental shelf and adjacent to the ice shelf front. The measurements reveal two significant sources of glacial melt water at Fimbul Ice Shelf: the main cavity under the ice shelf and an ice tongue, Trolltunga, that protrudes from the main ice front and out over the continental slope into deep water. Glacial melt water is concentrated in a 200m thick Ice Shelf Water (ISW) layer below the base of the ice shelf at 150–200 m, with a maximum glacial melt concentration of up to 1.16%. Some glacial melt is found throughout the water column, and much of this is from sources other than Fimbul Ice Shelf. However, at least 0.2% of the water in the ISW layer cannot be accounted for by other processes and must have been contributed by the ice shelf. Just downstream of Fimbul Ice Shelf we observe locally created ISW mixing out across the continental slope. The ISW formed here is much less dense than that formed in the southwest Weddell Sea, and will ultimately contribute a freshening (and reduction in delta-18O) to the upper 100–150m of the water column in the southeast Weddell Sea.


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Authors: Price, M.R., Heywood, K.J., Nicholls, K.W. ORCIDORCID record for K.W. Nicholls

On this site: Keith Nicholls
1 January, 2008
Ocean Science / 4