Variability of sea-ice in the northern Weddell Sea during the 20th century
The record of winter fast-ice in the South Orkney Islands, northern Weddell Sea, Antarctica is over a century long and provides the longest observational record of sea-ice variability in the Southern Hemisphere. Here we present analyses of the series of fast-ice formation and breakout dates from 1903 to 2008. We show that over the satellite era (post 1979) the timing of both final autumn formation and complete spring breakout of fast-ice is representative of the regional sea-ice concentrations (SIC) in the northern Weddell Sea, and associated with atmospheric conditions in the Amundsen Sea region to the west of the Antarctic Peninsula. Variation in the fast-ice breakout date is influenced by the intensity of the westerly/north-westerly winds associated with the Southern Annular Mode (SAM). In contrast, the date of ice formation displays correlations with regional oceanic and sea-ice conditions over the previous 18 months, which indicate a preconditioning during the previous summer and winter, and exhibits variability associated with variation in tropical Pacific sea-surface temperature (i.e. the El Niño-Sothern Oscillation, ENSO). A reduction in fast-ice duration at the South Orkney Islands around the 1950s was associated with both later formation and earlier breakout. However, there were marked changes in variability (with periodicities of 3-5 year, 7-9 year and 20 year) in each of the series and in their relationships with ENSO and SAM, indicating the need for caution in interpreting changes in ice conditions based on shorter-term satellite series.
Authors: Murphy, E.J., Clarke, A., Abram, N.J., Turner, J.