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Wind- and sea-ice-driven interannual variability of Antarctic Bottom Water formation
  • Christina Schmidt,
  • Adele K. Morrison,
  • Matthew H. England
Christina Schmidt
University of New South Wales

Corresponding Author:christina.schmidt@unsw.edu.au

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Adele K. Morrison
Australian National University
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Matthew H. England
University of New South Wales
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Antarctic Bottom Water (AABW) is a major component of the global overturning circulation, originating around the Antarctic continental margin. In recent decades AABW has both warmed and freshened, but there is also evidence of large interannual variability. The causes of this underlying variability are not yet fully understood, in part due to a lack of ocean and air-sea-ice flux measurements in the region. Here, we simulate the formation and export of AABW from 1958 to 2018 using a global, eddying ocean–sea-ice model in which the four AABW formation regions and transports agree reasonably well with observations. The simulated formation and export of AABW exhibits strong interannual variability which is not correlated between the different formation regions. Reservoirs of very dense waters at depth in the Weddell and Ross Seas following 1-2 years of strong surface water mass transformation can lead to higher AABW export for up to a decade. In Prydz Bay and at the Adélie Coast in contrast, dense water reservoirs do not persist beyond 1 year which we attribute to the narrower shelf extent in the East Antarctic AABW formation regions. The main factor controlling years of high AABW formation are weaker easterly winds, which reduce sea ice import into the AABW formation region, leaving increased areas of open water primed for air-sea buoyancy loss and convective overturning. Our study highlights the variability of simulated AABW formation in all four formation regions, with potential implications for interpreting trends in observational data using only limited duration and coverage.
28 Feb 2023Submitted to ESS Open Archive
01 Mar 2023Published in ESS Open Archive