Climatology and decadal variability of the Ross Sea shelf waters

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A. Russo
A. Bergamasco
S. Carniel *
L. Grieco
M. Sclavo
G. Spezie
(*) Corresponding Author:
S. Carniel | sandro.carniel@ismar.cnr.it

Abstract

The World Ocean Database 2001 data located in the Ross Sea (named WOD01 and containing data in this region since 1928) are merged with recent data collected by the Italian expeditions (CLIMA dataset) in the period November 1994-February 2004 in the same area. From this extended dataset, austral summer climatologies of the main Ross Sea subsurface, intermediate and bottom water masses: High Salinity Shelf Water (HSSW), Low Salinity Shelf Water (LSSW), Ice Shelf Water (ISW) and Modified Circumpolar Deep Water (MCDW) have been drawn. The comparison between the WOD01_1994 climatologies (a subset of the WOD01 dataset until April 1994) and the CLIMA ones for the period 1994/95-2003/04 showed significant changes occurred during the decade. The freshening of the Ross Sea shelf waters which occurred during the period 1960-2000, was confirmed by our analysis in all the main water masses, even though with a spatially varying intensity. Relevant variations were found for the MCDW masses, which appeared to reduce their presence and to deepen; this can be ascribed to the very limited freshening of the MCDW core, which allowed an increased density with respect to the surrounding waters. Variations in the MCDW properties and extension could have relevant consequences, e.g. a decreased Ross Ice Shelf basal melting or a reduced supply of nutrients, and may also be indicative of a reduced thermohaline circulation within the Ross Sea. Shelf Waters (SW) having neutral density γn > 28.7 Kg m-3, which contribute to form the densest Antarctic Bottom Waters (AABW), showed a large volumetric decrease in the 1994/95-2003/04 decade, most likely as a consequence of the SW freshening.

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