In the Antarctic, dense shelf water is formed in coastal polynyas and is differentiated from the fresher surface water by the wind-induced ice motion that displaces offshore the ice melt from production zones. Where the shelf water discharges into the deep ocean, the Antarctic Slope Front (ASF) is V shaped, separating the shelf and surface waters (referred to as "frontal" waters) from the Circumpolar Deep Water (CDW). To elucidate basic constraints on frontal properties, a minimal model of homogeneous water masses forced by offshore wind and freshwater input in a perpetual winter is considered. With the surface water stirred by-and hence aligned with-the ice cover, there is little leakage of ice or meltwater from the frontal system, so ice production and melt merely redistribute heat and salt between frontal waters. As such, the heat loss to the atmosphere needs to be supplied by entraining CDW, which then necessitates the shelf water discharge on account of the mass balance. Because of the freshwater input, the discharged shelf water may not be saltier than the CDW, which thus may descend the slope to form bottom water only because of its coldness. With both frontal waters cooled to the freezing point, dominant balances are formulated to determine their salinity and exchange rate with the ambient CDW. Although extremely crude, the model derivations are favorably compared with observations, which thus may provide physically based parameterizations for the bottom-water formation that can be incorporated into global models.
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