The influence of tides on the marine carbonate chemistry of a coastal polynya in the south-eastern Weddell Sea

Tides significantly affect polar coastlines by modulating ice shelf melt and modifying shelf water properties through transport and mixing. However, the effect of tides on the marine carbonate chemistry in such regions, especially around Antarctica, remains largely unexplored. We address this topic with two case studies in a coastal polynya in the south-eastern Weddell Sea, neighbouring the Ekström Ice Shelf. The case studies were conducted in January 2015 (PS89) and January 2019 (PS117), capturing semi-diurnal oscillations in the water column. These are pronounced in both physical and biogeochemical variables for PS89. During rising tide, advection of sea ice meltwater from the north-east created a fresher, warmer, and more deeply mixed water column with lower dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC) and total alkalinity (TA) content. During ebbing tide, water from underneath the ice shelf decreased the polynya's temperature, increased the DIC and TA content, and created a more stratified water column. The variability during the PS117 case study was much smaller, as it had less sea ice meltwater input during rising tide and was better mixed with sub-ice shelf water. The contrasts in the variability between the two case studies could be wind and sea ice driven, and they underline the complexity and highly dynamic nature of the system. The variability in the polynya induced by the tides results in an air–sea CO2 flux that can range between a strong sink (−24 mmol m−2 d−1) and a small source (3 mmol m−2 d−1) on a semi-diurnal timescale. If the variability induced by tides is not taken into account, there is a potential risk of overestimating the polynya's CO2 uptake by 67 % or underestimating it by 73 %, compared to the average flux determined over several days. Depending on the timing of limited sampling, the polynya may appear to be a source or a sink of CO2. Given the disproportionate influence of polynyas on heat and carbon exchange in polar oceans, we recommend future studies around the Antarctic and Arctic coastlines to consider the timing of tidal currents in their sampling strategies and analyses. This will help constrain variability in oceanographic measurements and avoid potential biases in our understanding of these highly complex systems.


Publication status:
Authors: Droste, Elise S., Hoppema, Mario, González-Dávila, Melchor, Santana-Casiano, Juana Magdalena, Queste, Bastien Y., Dall'Olmo, Giorgio, Venables, Hugh J., Rohardt, Gerd, Ossebaar, Sharyn, Schuller, Daniel, Trace-Kleeberg, Sunke, Bakker, Dorothee C. E.

On this site: Hugh Venables
12 September, 2022
Ocean Science / 18
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