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The Cryosphere An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Discussion papers
https://doi.org/10.5194/tc-2019-244
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/tc-2019-244
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Submitted as: research article 02 Dec 2019

Submitted as: research article | 02 Dec 2019

Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal The Cryosphere (TC).

Impact of West Antarctic Ice Shelf melting on the Southern Ocean Hydrography

Yoshihiro Nakayama1,2, Ralph Timmermann2, and Hartmut Hellmer2 Yoshihiro Nakayama et al.
  • 1Institute of Low Temperature Science, Hokkaido University, Japan
  • 2Alfred Wegener Institute, Bremerhaven, Germany

Abstract. Previous studies show accelerations of West Antarctic glaciers, implying that basal melt rates of these glaciers were previously small and increased in the middle of the 20th century. This enhanced melting is a likely source of the observed Ross Sea (RS) freshening, but its long-term impact on the Southern Ocean hydrography has never been investigated. Here, we conduct coupled sea-ice/ice-shelf/ocean simulations with different levels of ice shelf melting from West Antarctic glaciers. Freshening of RS shelf and bottom water is simulated with enhanced West Antarctic ice shelf melting, while no significant changes in shelf water properties are simulated when West Antarctic ice shelf melting is small. We further show that the freshening caused by glacial meltwater from ice shelves in the Amundsen and Bellingshausen Seas propagates further downstream along the East Antarctic coast into the Weddell Sea. Our experiments also show the timescales for the freshening signal to reach other regions around the Antarctic continent. The freshening signal propagates onto the RS continental shelf within a year of model simulation, while it takes roughly 5–10 years and 10–15 years to propagate into the region off Cape Darnley and into the Weddell Sea, respectively. This advection of freshening signal} possibly modulates the properties of dense shelf water and impacts the production of Antarctic Bottom Water.

Yoshihiro Nakayama et al.
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Short summary
Previous studies show accelerations of West Antarctic glaciers, implying that basal melt rates of these glaciers were small and increased in the middle of the 20th century. We conduct coupled sea-ice/ice-shelf/ocean simulations with different levels of ice shelf melting from West Antarctic glaciers. This study reveals how far and how quick glacial meltwater from ice shelves in the Amundsen and Bellingshausen Seas propagates downstream into the Ross Sea and along the East Antarctic coast.
Previous studies show accelerations of West Antarctic glaciers, implying that basal melt rates...
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