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Snow-ice growth: a fresh-water flux inhibiting deep convection in the Weddell Sea, Antarctica

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Abstract:

During a field experiment in July 1994, while the R.V. Nathaniel B. Palmer was moored to a drifting ice floe in the Weddell Sea, Antarctica, data were collected on sea-ice and snow characteristics. We report on the evolution of ice which grew in a newly opened lead. As expected with cold atmospheric conditions, congelation ice initially formed in the lead. Subsequent snow accumulation and large ocean heat fluxes resulted in melt at the base of the ice, and enhanced flooding of the snow on the ice surface. This flooded snow subsequently froze, and, 5 days after the lead opened, all the congelation ice had melted and 26 cm of snow ice had formed. We use measured sea-ice and snow salinities, thickness and oxygen isotope values of the newly formed lead ice to calculate the salt flux to the ocean. Although there was a salt flux to the ocean as the ice initially grew, we calculate a small net fresh-water input to the upper ocean by the end of the 5 day period. Similar processes of basal melt and surface snow-ice formation also occurred on the surrounding, thicker sea ice. Oceanographic studies in this region of the Weddell Sea have shown that salt rejection by sea-ice formation may enhance the ocean vertical thermohaline circulation and release heat from the deeper ocean to melt the ice cover. This type of deep convection is thought to initiate the Weddell polynya, which was observed only during the 1970s. Our results, which show that an ice cover can form with no salt input to the ocean, provide a mechanism which may help explain the more recent absence of the Weddell polynya.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: https://doi.org/10.3189/172756401781818752

Publication date: 2001-01-01

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  • The Annals of Glaciology is a peer-reviewed, thematic journal published 2 to 4 times a year by the International Glaciological Society (IGS). Publication frequency is determined and volume/issue numbers assigned by the IGS Council on a year-to-year basis and with a lead time of 3 to 4 years. The Annals of Glaciology is included in the ISI Science Citation Index from volume 50, number 50 onwards.

    Themes can be on any aspect of the study of snow and ice. Individual members can make a suggestion for a theme for an Annals issue to the Secretary General, who will forward it to the IGS Publications Committee. The IGS Publication Committee will make a recommendation for an individual themed Annals issue, together with a potential Annals Chief Editor for that issue, to IGS Council. The IGS Council will make the decision whether to proceed, taking into account the spread of topics and the overall capacity for publication of pages in Annals.

    Beginning in 2016, content will be available at https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/annals-of-glaciology.

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