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  1. Abstract

    Determining the injection of glacial meltwater into polar oceans is crucial for quantifying the climate system response to ice sheet mass loss. However, meltwater is poorly observed and its pathways poorly known, especially in winter. Here we present winter meltwater distribution near Pine Island Glacier using data collected by tagged seals, revealing a highly variable meltwater distribution with two meltwater-rich layers in the upper 250 m and at around 450 m, connected by scattered meltwater-rich columns. We show that the hydrographic signature of meltwater is clearest in winter, when its presence can be unambiguously mapped. We argue that the buoyant meltwater provides near-surface heat that helps to maintain polynyas close to ice shelves. The meltwater feedback onto polynyas and air-sea heat fluxes demonstrates that although the processes determining the distribution of meltwater are small-scale, they are important to represent in Earth system models.

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  3. Abstract

    Pine Island Ice Shelf, in the Amundsen Sea, is losing mass due to increased heat transport by warm ocean water penetrating beneath the ice shelf and causing basal melt. Tracing this warm deep water and the resulting glacial meltwater can identify changes in melt rate and the regions most affected by the increased input of this freshwater. Here, optimum multiparameter analysis is used to deduce glacial meltwater fractions from independent water mass characteristics (standard hydrographic observations, noble gases, and oxygen isotopes), collected during a ship‐based campaign in the eastern Amundsen Sea in February–March 2014. Noble gases (neon, argon, krypton, and xenon) and oxygen isotopes are used to trace the glacial melt and meteoric water found in seawater, and we demonstrate how their signatures can be used to rectify the hydrographic trace of glacial meltwater, which provides a much higher‐resolution picture. The presence of glacial meltwater is shown to mask the Winter Water properties, resulting in differences between the water mass analyses of up to 4‐g/kg glacial meltwater content. This discrepancy can be accounted for by redefining the “pure” Winter Water endpoint in the hydrographic glacial meltwater calculation. The corrected glacial meltwater content values show a persistent signature between 150 and 400 m of the water column across all of the sample locations (up to 535 km from Pine Island Ice Shelf), with increased concentration toward the west along the coastline. It also shows, for the first time, the signature of glacial meltwater flowing off‐shelf in the eastern channel.

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