Sources and pathways of glacial meltwater in the Bellingshausen Sea, Antarctica

Peter M. F. Sheehan, Karen J. Heywood, Andrew F. Thompson, M. Mar Flexas, Michael P. Shodlok

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Meltwater content and pathways determine the impact of Antarctica's melting ice shelves on ocean circulation and climate. Using ocean glider observations, we quantify meltwater distribution and transport within the Bellingshausen Sea's Belgica Trough. Meltwater is present at different densities and with different turbidities: both are indicative of a layer's ice shelf of origin. To investigate how ice-shelf origin separates meltwater into different export pathways, we compare these observations with high-resolution tracer-release model simulations. Meltwater filaments branch off the Antarctic Coastal Current into the southwestern trough. Meltwater also enters the Belgica Trough in the northwest via an extended western pathway, hence the greater observed southward (0.50 mSv) than northward (0.17 mSv) meltwater transport. Together, the observations and simulations reveal meltwater retention within a cyclonic in-trough gyre, which has the potential to promote climactically important feedbacks on circulation and future melting.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2023GL102785
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number14
Early online date17 Jul 2023
Publication statusPublished - 28 Jul 2023

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