The effects of enhanced sea ice export from the Ross Sea on recent cooling and freshening of the Southeast Pacific

The top 2000 m of the Southern Ocean has freshened and warmed over recent decades. However, the high-latitude (south of 50°S) southeast Pacific was observed to be cooler and fresher in the years 2008-2010 compared to 2005-2007 over a wide depth range including surface, mode, and intermediate waters. The causes and impacts of this event are analyzed using the ocean—sea-ice data-assimilating Southern Ocean State Estimate (SOSE) and observationally based products. In 2008-2010, a strong positive Southern Annular Mode coincided with a negative El Niño Southern Oscillation and a deep Amundsen Sea Low. Enhanced meridional winds drove strong sea ice export from the eastern Ross Sea, bringing large amounts of ice to the Amundsen Sea ice edge. In 2008, together with increased precipitation, this introduced a strong freshwater anomaly that was advected eastward by the Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC), mixing along the way. This anomaly entered the ocean interior not only as Antarctic Intermediate Water, but also as lighter Southeast Pacific Subantarctic Mode Water (SEPSAMW). A numerical particle release experiment carried out in SOSE , showed that the Ross Sea sector was the dominant source of particles reaching the SEPSAMW formation region. This suggests that large-scale climate fluctuations can induce strong interannual variability of volume and properties of SEPSAMW. These fluctuations act at different time scales: instantaneously via direct forcing, and also lagged over advective time scales of several years from upstream regions.


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Authors: Cerovečki, Ivana, Meijers, Andrew J.S., Mazloff, Matthew R., Gille, Sarah T., Tamsitt, Veronica M., Holland, Paul R.

On this site: Andrew Meijers, Paul Holland
1 April, 2019
Journal of Climate / 32
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