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The Antarctic Coastal Current in the Bellingshausen Sea

Schubert, Ryan and Thompson, Andrew F. and Speer, Kevin and Schulze Chretien, Lena and Bebieva, Yana (2021) The Antarctic Coastal Current in the Bellingshausen Sea. Cryosphere, 15 (9). pp. 4179-4199. ISSN 1994-0424. doi:10.5194/tc-15-4179-2021.

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The ice shelves of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet experience basal melting induced by underlying warm, salty Circumpolar Deep Water. Basal meltwater, along with runoff from ice sheets, supplies fresh buoyant water to a circulation feature near the coast, the Antarctic Coastal Current (AACC). The formation, structure, and coherence of the AACC has been well documented along the West Antarctic Peninsula (WAP). Observations from instrumented seals collected in the Bellingshausen Sea offer extensive hydrographic coverage throughout the year, providing evidence of the continuation of the westward flowing AACC from the WAP towards the Amundsen Sea. The observations reported here demonstrate that the coastal boundary current enters the eastern Bellingshausen Sea from the WAP and flows westward along the face of multiple ice shelves, including the westernmost Abbot Ice Shelf. The presence of the AACC in the western Bellingshausen Sea has implications for the export of water properties into the eastern Amundsen Sea, which we suggest may occur through multiple pathways, either along the coast or along the continental shelf break. The temperature, salinity, and density structure of the current indicates an increase in baroclinic transport as the AACC flows from the east to the west, and as it entrains meltwater from the ice shelves in the Bellingshausen Sea. The AACC acts as a mechanism to transport meltwater out of the Bellingshausen Sea and into the Amundsen and Ross seas, with the potential to impact, respectively, basal melt rates and bottom water formation in these regions.

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URLURL TypeDescription ItemData
Schubert, Ryan0000-0003-1122-0554
Thompson, Andrew F.0000-0003-0322-4811
Schulze Chretien, Lena0000-0002-9668-5213
Additional Information:© Author(s) 2021. This work is distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License. Received: 04 Feb 2021 – Discussion started: 19 Feb 2021 – Revised: 20 Jul 2021 – Accepted: 21 Jul 2021 – Published: 01 Sep 2021. We gratefully acknowledge all of the scientists who have contributed to the MEOP project through their seal tagging and data processing efforts. In particular, we thank Fabien Roquet, who assisted with processing of the seal data previously. The marine mammal data were collected and made freely available by the International MEOP Consortium and the national programs that contribute to it (, last access: 31 September 2021). This research has been supported by the Office of Polar Programs (grant nos. 1643679 and 1644172) and the Division of Ocean Sciences (grant no. 1658479). Author contributions: KS and AFT conceived and designed the study. RS performed the analysis and wrote the paper. YB and LSC assisted with the data analysis. The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest. Review statement: This paper was edited by Nicolas Jourdain and reviewed by two anonymous referees. Code and data availability: All analysis and figures were created using MATLAB. Analysis scripts are available upon request from Ryan Schubert. The instrumented seal data were obtained from the publicly available MEOP database, which can be found at (Treasure et al., 2017).
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Issue or Number:9
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20211007-223111495
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Official Citation:Schubert, R., Thompson, A. F., Speer, K., Schulze Chretien, L., and Bebieva, Y.: The Antarctic Coastal Current in the Bellingshausen Sea, The Cryosphere, 15, 4179–4199,, 2021
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:111273
Deposited By: Tony Diaz
Deposited On:07 Oct 2021 22:40
Last Modified:07 Oct 2021 22:40

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