Oceanographic fieldwork in the Amundsen Sea: an overview of cruise JR141
This report provides an overview of a 2006 cruise to the Amundsen Sea, the oceanographic data collected, and how we intend to use these data to further our understanding of the
physical oceanography of this region. The Amundsen Sea, located in the eastern Pacific sector of the Southern Ocean, is a region where ice shelves are rapidly thinning (Shepherd et al., 2004). The widespread, coherent nature of the thinning suggests a reaction to external forcing. Given that air temperatures are below freezing year-round, the most likely instigator of rapid change is the ocean.
The Amundsen and Bellingshausen Seas have water properties unlike anywhere else around Antarctica. Circumpolar Deep Water (CDW), which elsewhere is found only within the
Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC), floods the continental shelves, resulting in the highest water temperatures to be found around the continent. CDW is characterised by temperatures in excess of 1ºC, which is around 3°C warmer than the surface freezing point. When this water mass has access to the base of an ice shelf, melting is one to two orders of magnitude higher than it would otherwise be. Previous studies have shown the link between rapid
melting and the presence of CDW beneath ice shelves (Potter and Paren, 1985; Jacobs et al., 1996), and sub-ice shelf melt rates have been found to be sensitive to relatively minor changes in water temperature (Hellmer et al., 1998).
Understanding the mechanisms of the on-shelf transport of CDW and quantifying the associated heat fluxes are clearly key to understanding the oceanographic impact on the ice shelves