Impact of model resolution for on-shelf heat transport along the West Antarctic Peninsula

Jennifer A. Graham, Michael S. Dinniman, John M. Klinck

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The flux of warm deep water onto Antarctic continental shelves plays a vital role in determining water mass properties adjacent to the continent. A regional model, with two different grid resolutions, has been used to simulate ocean processes along the West Antarctic Peninsula. At both 4 km and 1.5 km resolution, the model reproduces the locations of warm intrusions, as shown through comparison with observations from instrumented seals. However, the 1.5 km simulation shows greater on‐shelf heat transport, leading to improved representation of heat content on the shelf. This increased heat transport is associated with increased eddy activity, both at the shelf‐break and in the deep ocean off‐shore. Cross‐shelf troughs are key locations of on‐shelf heat transport. Comparison of two troughs, Belgica and Marguerite, shows differing responses to increased resolution. At higher resolution, there is an increased on‐shelf volume transport at Belgica Trough, but not at Marguerite Trough. This is likely related to the differing structure of the shelf‐break jet between these two locations. The increased heat flux at Marguerite Trough is attributed to increased heat content in the on‐shelf transport. Increased eddy activity off‐shelf may lead to greater cross‐front heat transport, and therefore increased heat available above the continental slope. While these simulations differ in their magnitude of heat transport, both show similar patterns of variability. Variations in wind stress lead to variations in speed of the shelf‐break jet, and therefore on‐shelf heat transport. These results demonstrate the importance of model resolution for understanding cross‐shelf transport around Antarctica.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7880-7897
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Oceans
Issue number10
Early online date4 Oct 2016
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2016
Externally publishedYes

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