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Sea-ice growth and water-mass modification in the Mertz Glacier polynya, East Antarctica, during winter

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In July–September 1999, an extensive oceanographic survey (87 conductivity-, temperature- and depth-measuring stations) was conducted in the Mertz Glacier polynya over the Adélie Depression off the Antarctic coast between 145° and 150° E. We identify and describe four key water masses in this polynya: highly modified circumpolar deep water (HMCDW), winter water (WW), ice-shelf water (ISW) and high-salinity shelf water (HSSW). Combining surface velocity data (from an acoustic Doppler current-profiler) with three hydrographic sections, we found the HMCDW to be flowing westward along the shelf break (0.7 Sv), the WW and HSSW flowing eastwards underneath Mertz Glacier (2.0 Sv) and that there was a westward return flow of ISW against the continent (1.2 Sv). Using a simple box model for the exchanges of heat and fresh water between the principal water masses, we find that the polynya was primarily a latent-heat polynya with 95% of the total heat flux caused by sea-ice formation. This heat flux results from a fresh-water-equivalent sea-ice growth rate of 4.9–7.7 cm d−1 and a mass exchange between HMCDW and WW of 1.45 Sv The inferred ocean heat flux is 8–14 W m−2 and compares well with other indirect estimates.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: January 1, 2001

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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.

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