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Weddell Sea Export Pathways from Surface Drifters

Youngs, Madeleine K. and Thompson, Andrew F. and Flexas, M. Mar and Heywood, Karen J. (2015) Weddell Sea Export Pathways from Surface Drifters. Journal of Physical Oceanography, 45 (4). pp. 1068-1085. ISSN 0022-3670.

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The complex export pathways that connect the surface waters of the Weddell Sea with the Antarctic Circumpolar Current influence water mass modification, nutrient fluxes, and ecosystem dynamics. To study this exchange, 40 surface drifters, equipped with temperature sensors, were released into the northwestern Weddell Sea’s continental shelf and slope frontal system in late January 2012. Comparison of the drifter trajectories with a similar deployment in early February 2007 provides insight into the interannual variability of the surface circulation in this region. Observed differences in the 2007 and 2012 drifter trajectories are related to a variable surface circulation responding to changes in wind stress curl over the Weddell Gyre. Differences between northwestern Weddell Sea properties in 2007 and 2012 include 1) an enhanced cyclonic wind stress forcing over the Weddell Gyre in 2012; 2) an acceleration of the Antarctic Slope Current (ASC) and an offshore shift of the primary drifter export pathway in 2012; and 3) a strengthening of the Coastal Current (CC) over the continental shelf in 2007. The relationship between wind stress forcing and surface circulation is reproduced over a longer time period in virtual drifter deployments advected by a remotely sensed surface velocity product. The mean offshore position and speed of the drifter trajectories are correlated with the wind stress curl over the Weddell Gyre, although with different temporal lags. The drifter observations are consistent with recent modeling studies suggesting that Weddell Sea boundary current variability can significantly impact the rate and source of exported surface waters to the Scotia Sea, a process that determines regional chlorophyll distributions.

Item Type:Article
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URLURL TypeDescription
Thompson, Andrew F.0000-0003-0322-4811
Flexas, M. Mar0000-0002-0617-3004
Heywood, Karen J.0000-0001-9859-0026
Additional Information:© 2015 American Meteorological Society. Manuscript received 28 May 2014, in final form 16 January 2015; Published online 8 April 2015. We thank everyone who made the GENTOO cruise successful, especially the officers and crew of the RRS James Clark Ross. We are grateful for the financial support of the NOAA Global Drifter Program (GDP) as well as the assistance of Mayra Pazos with the drifter data. Conversations with Alberto Naveira Garabato and Angelika Renner improved this manuscript. The ADELIE and GENTOO cruises were supported by the U.K. Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) through the Antarctic Funding Initiative (NE/C50633X/1 and NE/H01439X/1, respectively). Support for the drifters came from the GDP and the Davidow Discovery Fund. MKY’s participation was funded by the J. Weldon Green and Samuel P. and Frances Krown Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowships (SURFs), the George W. Housner Fund, and the James Morgan Fellowship. AFT was supported by NSF Grant NSF OPP-1246460. MMFs participation was supported by an appointment to the NASA Postdoctoral Program at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory/California Institute of Technology, administered by Oak Ridge Associated Universities through a contract with NASA.
Funding AgencyGrant Number
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)UNSPECIFIED
Natural Environment Research Council (NERC)NE/C50633X/1
Natural Environment Research Council (NERC)NE/H01439X/1
Davidow Discovery FundUNSPECIFIED
Caltech Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF)UNSPECIFIED
George W. Housner FundUNSPECIFIED
James Morgan FellowshipUNSPECIFIED
NASA Postdoctoral ProgramUNSPECIFIED
Subject Keywords:Geographic location/entity; Continental shelf/slope; Southern Ocean; Circulation/ Dynamics; Boundary currents; Trajectories; Observational techniques and algorithms; Surface observations; Variability; Interannual variability
Issue or Number:4
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20170926-102639748
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Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:81833
Deposited By: Tony Diaz
Deposited On:26 Sep 2017 17:35
Last Modified:09 Mar 2020 13:18

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