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Creators/Authors contains: "Thompson, Andrew F."

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  1. Abstract

    Ocean heat exchanges at the marginal ice zone (MIZ) play an important role in melting sea ice. Mixed‐layer eddies transport heat and ice floes across the MIZ, facilitating the pack's access to warm waters. This study explores these frontal dynamics using disk‐shaped floes coupled to an upper‐ocean model simulating the sea ice edge. Numerical experiments reveal that small floes respond more strongly to fine‐scale ocean currents, which favors higher dispersion rates and weakens sea ice drag onto the underlying ocean. Floes with radii smaller than resolved turbulent filaments (∼2–4 km) result in a wider and more energetic MIZ, by a factor of 70% each, compared to larger floes. We hypothesize that this floe size dependency may affect sea ice break‐up by controlling oceanic energy propagation into the MIZ and modulate the sea ice pack's melt rate by regulating lateral heat transport toward the sea ice cover.

     
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  2. Abstract

    Variability in oceanic conditions directly impacts ice loss from marine outlet glaciers in Greenland, influencing the ice sheet mass balance. Oceanic conditions are available from Atmosphere‐Ocean Global Climate Model (AOGCM) output, but these models require extensive computational resources and lack the fine resolution needed to simulate ocean dynamics on the Greenland continental shelf and close to glacier marine termini. Here, we develop a statistical approach to generate ocean forcing for ice sheet model simulations, which incorporates natural spatiotemporal variability and anthropogenic changes. Starting from raw AOGCM ocean heat content, we apply: (a) a bias‐correction using ocean reanalysis, (b) an extrapolation accounting for on‐shelf ocean dynamics, and (c) stochastic time series models to generate realizations of natural variability. The bias‐correction reduces model errors by ∼25% when compared to independent in‐situ measurements. The bias‐corrected time series are subsequently extrapolated to fjord mouth locations using relations constrained from available high‐resolution regional ocean model results. The stochastic time series models reproduce the spatial correlation, characteristic timescales, and the amplitude of natural variability of bias‐corrected AOGCMs, but at negligible computational expense. We demonstrate the efficiency of this method by generating >6,000 time series of ocean forcing for >200 Greenland marine‐terminating glacier locations until 2100. As our method is computationally efficient and adaptable to any ocean model output and reanalysis product, it provides flexibility in exploring sensitivity to ocean conditions in Greenland ice sheet model simulations. We provide the output and workflow in an open‐source repository, and discuss advantages and future developments for our method.

     
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  3. Abstract

    Melt rates of West Antarctic ice shelves in the Amundsen Sea track large decadal variations in the volume of warm water at their outlets. This variability is generally attributed to wind‐driven variations in warm water transport toward ice shelves. Inspired by conceptual representations of the global overturning circulation, we introduce a simple model for the evolution of the thermocline, which caps the warm water layer at the ice‐shelf front. This model demonstrates that interannual variations in coastal polynya buoyancy forcing can generate large decadal‐scale thermocline depth variations, even when the supply of warm water from the shelf‐break is fixed. The modeled variability involves transitions between bistable high and low melt regimes, enabled by feedbacks between basal melt rates and ice front stratification strength. Our simple model captures observed variations in near‐coast thermocline depth and stratification strength, and poses an alternative mechanism for warm water volume changes to wind‐driven theories.

     
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  4. Abstract

    In recent years, the Southern Ocean has experienced unprecedented surface warming and sea ice loss—a stark reversal of the sea ice expansion and surface cooling that prevailed over the preceding decades. Here, we examine the mechanisms that led to the abrupt circumpolar surface warming events that occurred in late 2016 and 2019 and assess the role of internal climate variability. A mixed layer heat budget analysis reveals that these recent circumpolar surface warming events were triggered by a weakening of the circumpolar westerlies, which decreased northward Ekman transport and accelerated the seasonal shoaling of the mixed layer. We emphasize the underappreciated effect of the latter mechanism, which played a dominant role and amplified the warming effect of air–sea heat fluxes during months of peak solar insolation. An examination of the CESM1 large ensemble demonstrates that these recent circumpolar warming events are consistent with the internal variability associated with the Southern Annular Mode (SAM), whereby negative SAM in austral spring favors shallower mixed layers and anomalously high summertime SST. A key insight from this analysis is that the seasonal phasing of springtime mixed layer depth shoaling is an important contributor to summertime SST variability in the Southern Ocean. Thus, future Southern Ocean summertime SST extremes will depend on the coevolution of mixed layer depth and surface wind variability.

    Significance Statement

    This study examines how reductions in the strength of the circumpolar westerlies can produce abrupt and extreme surface warming across the Southern Ocean. A key insight is that the mixed layer temperature is most sensitive to surface wind perturbations in late austral spring, when the regional mixed layer depth and solar insolation approach their respective seasonal minimum and maximum. This heightened surface temperature response to surface wind variability was realized during the austral spring of 2016 and 2019, when a dramatic weakening of the circumpolar westerlies triggered unprecedented warming across the Southern Ocean. In both cases, the anomalously weak circumpolar winds reduced the northward Ekman transport of cool subpolar waters and caused the mixed layer to shoal more rapidly in the spring, with the latter mechanism being more dominant. Using results from an ensemble of coupled climate simulations, we demonstrate that the 2016 and 2019 Southern Ocean warming events are consistent with the internal variability associated with the Southern Annular Mode (SAM). These results suggest that future Southern Ocean surface warming extremes will depend on both the evolution of regional mixed layer depths and interannual wind variability.

     
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  5. Abstract

    Arctic sea ice extent continues to decline at an unprecedented rate that is commonly underestimated by climate projection models. This disagreement may imply biases in the representation of processes that bring heat to the sea ice in these models. Here we reveal interactions between ocean-ice heat fluxes, sea ice cover, and upper-ocean eddies that constitute a positive feedback missing in climate models. Using an eddy-resolving global ocean model, we demonstrate that ocean-ice heat fluxes are predominantly induced by localized and intermittent ocean eddies, filaments, and internal waves that episodically advect warm subsurface waters into the mixed layer where they are in direct contact with sea ice. The energetics of near-surface eddies interacting with sea ice are modulated by frictional dissipation in ice-ocean boundary layers, being dominant under consolidated winter ice but substantially reduced under low-concentrated weak sea ice in marginal ice zones. Our results indicate that Arctic sea ice loss will reduce upper-ocean dissipation, which will produce more energetic eddies and amplified ocean-ice heat exchange. We thus emphasize the need for sea ice-aware parameterizations of eddy-induced ice-ocean heat fluxes in climate models.

     
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  6. Abstract

    The export of Antarctic Bottom Water (AABW) supplies the bottom cell of the global overturning circulation and plays a key role in regulating climate. This AABW outflow must cross, and is therefore mediated by, the Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC). Previous studies present widely varying conceptions of the role of the ACC in directing AABW across the Southern Ocean, suggesting either that AABW may be zonally recirculated by the ACC, or that AABW may flow northward within deep western boundary currents (DWBC) against bathymetry. In this study the authors investigate how the forcing and geometry of the ACC influences the transport and transformation of AABW using a suite of process-oriented model simulations. The model exhibits a strong dependence on the elevation of bathymetry relative to AABW layer thickness: higher meridional ridges suppress zonal AABW exchange, increase the strength of flow in the DWBC, and reduce the meridional variation in AABW density across the ACC. Furthermore, the transport and transformation vary with density within the AABW layer, with denser varieties of AABW being less efficiently transported between basins. These findings indicate that changes in the thickness of the AABW layer, for example, due to changes in Antarctic shelf processes, and tectonic changes in the sea floor shape may alter the pathways and transformation of AABW across the ACC.

    Significance Statement

    The ocean plays an outsized role in the movement of heat and trace gases around Earth, and the northward export of dense Antarctic Bottom Water is a crucial component of this climate-regulating process. This study aims to understand what sets the pathways of Antarctic Bottom Water as it travels northward across the Antarctic Circumpolar Current, and thus what controls its partitioning between the Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific basins. Our results highlight the importance of seafloor elevation relative to the thickness of the Antarctic Bottom Water layer for directing the flow northward versus between basins. This study motivates future investigation of long-term changes in Antarctic Bottom Water properties and their consequences for its global distribution.

     
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  7. Abstract The reorganization of the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC) is often associated with changes in Earth’s climate. These AMOC changes are communicated to the Indo-Pacific basins via wave processes and induce an overturning circulation anomaly that opposes the Atlantic changes on decadal to centennial time scales. We examine the role of this transient, interbasin overturning response, driven by an AMOC weakening, both in an ocean-only model with idealized geometry and in a coupled CO 2 quadrupling experiment, in which the ocean warms on two distinct time scales: a fast decadal surface warming and a slow centennial subsurface warming. We show that the transient interbasin overturning produces a zonal heat redistribution between the Atlantic and Indo-Pacific basins. Following a weakened AMOC, an anomalous northward heat transport emerges in the Indo-Pacific, which substantially compensates for the Atlantic southward heat transport anomaly. This zonal heat redistribution manifests as a thermal interbasin seesaw between the high-latitude North Atlantic and the subsurface Indo-Pacific and helps to explain why Antarctic temperature records generally show more gradual changes than the Northern Hemisphere during the last glacial period. In the coupled CO 2 quadrupling experiment, we find that the interbasin heat transport due to a weakened AMOC contributes substantially to the slow centennial subsurface warming in the Indo-Pacific, accounting for more than half of the heat content increase and sea level rise. Thus, our results suggest that the transient interbasin overturning circulation is a key component of the global ocean heat budget in a changing climate. 
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  8. Abstract

    Marginal ice zones are composed of discrete sea‐ice floes, whose dynamics are not well captured by the continuum representation of sea ice in most climate models. This study makes use of an ocean large eddy simulation (LES) model, coupled to cylindrical sea‐ice floes, to investigate thermal and mechanical interactions between melt‐induced submesoscale features and sea‐ice floes, during summer conditions. We explore the sensitivity of sea‐ice melt rates and upper‐ocean turbulence properties to floe size, ice‐ocean drag, and surface winds. Under low wind conditions, upper ocean turbulence transports warm cyclonic filaments from the open ocean toward the center of the floes and enhances their basal melt. This heat transport is partially suppressed by trapping of ice within cold anticyclonic features. When winds are stronger, melt rates are enhanced by the decoupling of floes from the cold, melt‐induced lens underneath sea ice. Distinct dynamical regimes emerge in which the influence of warm filaments on sea‐ice melt is mitigated by the strength of ice‐ocean coupling and eddy size relative to floe size. Simple scaling laws, which may help parameterize these processes in coarse continuum‐based sea‐ice models, successfully capture floe melt rates under these limiting regimes.

     
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  9. Abstract

    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.

     
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  10. Free, publicly-accessible full text available September 1, 2024