Jul 17, 2017

Localized rapid warming of West Antarctic subsurface waters by remote winds

Paul Spence, Ryan M. Holmes, Andrew McC. Hogg, Stephen M. Griffies, Kial D. Stewart, Matthew H. England
Nature Climate Change
  • States that the highest rates of Antarctic glacial ice mass loss are occurring to the west of the Antarctica Peninsula in regions where warming of subsurface continental shelf waters is also largest; however, the physical mechanisms responsible remain unknown
  • Shows how localized changes in coastal winds off East Antarctica can produce significant subsurface temperature anomalies (>2 °C) around much of the continent
  • Demonstrates how coastal-trapped barotropic Kelvin waves communicate the wind disturbance around the Antarctic coastline
  • Finds that the warming is focused on the western flank of the Antarctic Peninsula because the circulation induced by the coastal-trapped waves is intensified by the steep continental slope there, and because of the presence of pre-existing warm subsurface water offshore
  • Finds that the adjustment to the coastal-trapped waves shoals the subsurface isotherms and brings warm deep water upwards onto the continental shelf and closer to the coast
  • Result demonstrates the vulnerability of the West Antarctic region to a changing climate