Local- and large-scale drivers of variability in the coastal freshwater budget of the Western Antarctic Peninsula

The west Antarctic Peninsula (WAP) is a region of marked climatic variability, exhibiting strong changes in sea ice extent, retreat of most of its glaciers, and shifts in the amount and form of precipitation. These changes can have significant impacts on the oceanic freshwater budget and marine biogeochemical processes; it is thus important to ascertain the relative balance of the drivers, and the spatial scales over which they operate. We present a novel 7‐year summer‐season (October to March; 2011 to 2018) series of oxygen isotopes in seawater (δ18O), augmented with some winter sampling, collected adjacent to Anvers Island at the WAP. These data are used to attribute oceanic freshwater changes to sea ice and meteoric sources, and to deduce information on the spatial scales over which the changes are driven. Sea ice melt shows significant seasonality (∼9% range) and marked interannual changes, with pronounced maxima in seasons 2013/14 and 2016/17. Both of these extrema are driven by anomalous winds, but reflect strongly contrasting dynamic and thermodynamic sea ice responses. Meteoric water also shows seasonality (∼7% range), with interannual variability reflecting changes in the input of accumulated precipitation and glacial melt to the ocean. Unlike sea ice melt, meteoric water extremes are especially pronounced in thin (<10 m) surface layers close to the proximate glacier, associated with enhanced ocean stratification. Isotopic tracers help to deconvolve the complex spatio‐temporal scales inherent in the coastal freshwater budget, and hence improve knowledge of the separate and cumulative physical and ecological impacts.


Publication status:
Authors: Meredith, Michael P. ORCIDORCID record for Michael P. Meredith, Stammerjohn, Sharon E., Ducklow, Hugh W., Leng, Melanie J. ORCIDORCID record for Melanie J. Leng, Arrowsmith, Carol, Brearley, J. Alexander ORCIDORCID record for J. Alexander Brearley, Venables, Hugh J., Barham, Mark ORCIDORCID record for Mark Barham, Melchior van Wessem, Jan, Schofield, Oscar, Waite, Nicole

On this site: Hugh Venables, Alexander Brearley, Mark Barham, Michael Meredith
1 June, 2021
Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans / 126
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