Measurements of the ratio of stable isotopes of oxygen (18O and 16O) from samples collected on World Ocean Circulation Experiment sections SR1b (eastern Drake Passage) and A11 (Punta Arenas to Cape Town) are used, together with hydrographic data, to deduce information about the formation and variability of South Atlantic and Southern Ocean water masses. The Drake Passage surface waters south of the Polar Front (PF) are isotopically light (δ18O around -0.4‰) owing to the influence of meteoric waters. The salinity and δ18O of the A11 surface waters yield an apparent freshwater end-member which is much isotopically lighter than the local precipitation, thus advection of these waters from farther south dominates over local effects in determining the surface water properties. The Drake Passage section shows unusual proximity of the two main fronts of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current (the PF and Subantarctic Front (SAF)), and we observe cold, fresh, and isotopically light water derived from the temperature-minimum Winter Water at the SAF. This water is of the correct density to freshen the intermediate water north of the SAF and thus play a role in the formation of the comparatively fresh Antarctic Intermediate Water (AAIW) of the South Atlantic. This confirms the role of Antarctic water in forming the South Atlantic variety of AAIW. Across the A11 section the oxygen isotope and salinity data at the AAIW core show very similar traces, with waters in the Malvinas Current loop showing lowest values of both. At the eastern boundary of the South Atlantic, the input of Red Sea Water from east of South Africa is observed via the presence of anomalously isotopically heavy AAIW. We deduce potentially significant temporal variability in the isotopic composition of Weddell Sea Deep Water (WSDW) by comparing the Drake Passage data to earlier data covering the outflow of the Weddell Sea. The A11 data show WSDW consistent with such variability, indicating that its effects could persist in the waters as they flow north into the western South Atlantic. We speculate that such variability could be due to small changes in the amount of glacial ice melt in WSDW.
|Number of pages||14|
|Journal||Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans|
|Publication status||Published - 15 Sep 1999|