Surface circulation at the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula from drifters
An array of 40 surface drifters, drogued at 15-m depth, was deployed in February 2007 to the east of the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula as part of the Antarctic Drifter Experiment: Links to Isobaths and Ecosystems (ADELIE) project. Data obtained from these drifters and from a select number of local historical drifters provide the most detailed observations to date of the surface circulation in the northwestern Weddell Sea. The Antarctic Slope Front (ASF), characterized by a similar to 20 cm s(-1) current following the 1000-m isobath, is the dominant feature east of the peninsula. The slope front bifurcates when it encounters the South Scotia Ridge with the drifters following one of three paths. Drifters (i) are carried westward into Bransfield Strait; (ii) follow the 1000-m isobath to the east along the southern edge of the South Scotia Ridge; or (iii) become entrained in a large-standing eddy over the South Scotia Ridge. Drifters are strongly steered by contours of f/h (Coriolis frequency/depth) as shown by calculations of the first two moments of displacement in both geographic coordinates and coordinates locally aligned with contours of f/h. An eddy-mean decomposition of the drifter velocities indicates that shear in the mean flow makes the dominant contribution to dispersion in the along-f/h direction, but eddy processes are more important in dispersing particles across contours of f/h. The results of the ADELIE study suggest that the circulation near the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula may influence ecosystem dynamics in the Southern Ocean through Antarctic krill transport and the export of nutrients.