On the Thermohaline Circulation beneath the Filchner-Ronne Ice Shelves

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Antarctic Science
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In the Weddell Sea oceanographic data and numerical models demonstrate that Ice Shelf Water, one ingredient in the production of Weddell Sea Bottom Water, is formed by thermohaline interaction of High Salinity Shelf Water with the base of the Filchner-Ronne ice shelves. South of Berkner Island a passage with a water column thickness of about 300 m linking the Filchner and the Ronne regimes is important for the ventilation of the sub-ice shelf cavities. To simulate the flow we tested a two-dimensional thermohaline circulation model on several sections which approximate different geometries of a sub-ice shelf channel bounded by the ocean bottom and the ice shelf base. Temperature and salinity profiles measured in front of the Filchner-Ronne ice shelves are used to force the model. The results indicate that the circulation is sensitive to both salinity (density) forcing and depth of the shelf bottom prescribed at the open boundary representing the Ronne Ice Shelf edge. Where the shelf is shallow, 400 m deep, a closed circulation cell within the Ronne cavity acts like an ice pump with accumulation rates of marine ice at the ice shelf base up to 1.5 m y-1. The total outflow at the Ronne Ice Shelf edge is supported by an inflow from the Filchner regime. Where the shelf is deeper, a flow from the Ronne into the Filchner cavity develops if the bottom salinity at the Ronne Ice Shelf edge exceeds a critical value of 34.67. Seasonal variability imposed at both edges modifies the circulation pattern at the Filchner Ice Shelf edge such that the depth and magnitude of Ice Shelf Water outflow correspond with observations in the Filchner Depression.


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