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  1. Abstract

    West Antarctic Ice Sheet mass loss is a major source of uncertainty in sea level projections. The primary driver of this melting is oceanic heat from Circumpolar Deep Water originating offshore in the Antarctic Circumpolar Current. Yet, in assessing melt variability, open ocean processes have received considerably less attention than those governing cross-shelf exchange. Here, we use Lagrangian particle release experiments in an ocean model to investigate the pathways by which Circumpolar Deep Water moves toward the continental shelf across the Pacific sector of the Southern Ocean. We show that Ross Gyre expansion, linked to wind and sea ice variability, increases poleward heat transport along the gyre’s eastern limb and the relative fraction of transport toward the Amundsen Sea. Ross Gyre variability, therefore, influences oceanic heat supply toward the West Antarctic continental slope. Understanding remote controls on basal melt is necessary to predict the ice sheet response to anthropogenic forcing.

     
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available December 1, 2025
  2. Abstract

    The strength and variability of the Southern Ocean carbon sink is a significant source of uncertainty in the global carbon budget. One barrier to reconciling observations and models is understanding how synoptic weather patterns modulate air-sea carbon exchange. Here, we identify and track storms using atmospheric sea level pressure fields from reanalysis data to assess the role that storms play in driving air-sea CO2exchange. We examine the main drivers of CO2fluxes under storm forcing and quantify their contribution to Southern Ocean annual air-sea CO2fluxes. Our analysis relies on a forced ocean-ice simulation from the Community Earth System Model, as well as CO2fluxes estimated from Biogeochemical Argo floats. We find that extratropical storms in the Southern Hemisphere induce CO2outgassing, driven by CO2disequilibrium. However, this effect is an order of magnitude larger in observations compared to the model and caused by different reasons. Despite large uncertainties in CO2fluxes and storm statistics, observations suggest a pivotal role of storms in driving Southern Ocean air-sea CO2outgassing that remains to be well represented in climate models, and needs to be further investigated in observations.

     
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  3. Abstract

    The Southern Ocean plays a major role in controlling the evolution of Antarctic glaciers and in turn their impact on sea level rise. We present the Southern Ocean high‐resolution (SOhi) simulation of the MITgcm ocean model to reproduce ice‐ocean interaction at 1/24° around Antarctica, including all ice shelf cavities and oceanic tides. We evaluate the model accuracy on the continental shelf using Marine Mammals Exploring the Oceans Pole to Pole data and compare the results with three other MITgcm ocean models (ECCO4, SOSE, and LLC4320) and the ISMIP6 temperature reconstruction. Below 400 m, all the models exhibit a warm bias on the continental shelf, but the bias is reduced in the high‐resolution simulations. We hypothesize some of the bias is due to an overestimation of sea ice cover, which reduces heat loss to the atmosphere. Both high‐resolution and accurate bathymetry are required to improve model accuracy around Antarctica.

     
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available February 16, 2025
  4. Abstract

    Given the role played by the historical and extensive coverage of sea ice concentration (SIC) observations in reconstructing the long‐term variability of Antarctic sea ice, and the limited attention given to model‐dependent parameters in current sea ice data assimilation studies, this study focuses on enhancing the performance of the Data Assimilation System for the Southern Ocean in assimilating SIC through optimizing the localization and observation error estimate, and two assimilation experiments were conducted from 1979 to 2018. By comparing the results with the sea ice extent of the Southern Ocean and the sea ice thickness in the Weddell Sea, it becomes evident that the experiment with optimizations outperforms that without optimizations due to achieving more reasonable error estimates. Investigating uncertainties of the sea ice volume anomaly modeling reveals the importance of the sea ice‐ocean interaction in the SIC assimilation, implying the necessity of assimilating more oceanic and sea‐ice observations.

     
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available November 28, 2024
  5. Abstract

    The Southern Ocean (SO) connects major ocean basins and hosts large air‐sea carbon fluxes due to the resurfacing of deep nutrient and carbon‐rich waters. While wind‐induced turbulent mixing in the SO mixed layer is significant for air‐sea fluxes, the importance of the orders‐of‐magnitude weaker background mixing below is less well understood. The direct impact of altering background mixing on tracers, as opposed to the response due to a longer‐term change in large‐scale ocean circulation, is also poorly studied. Topographically induced upward propagating lee waves, wind‐induced downward propagating waves generated at the base of the mixed layer, shoaling of southward propagating internal tides, and turbulence under sea ice are among the processes known to induce upper ocean background turbulence but typically are not represented in models. Here, we show that abruptly altering the background mixing in the SO over a range of values typically used in climate models (m2 s−1m2 s−1) can lead to a ∼70% change in annual SO air‐sea CO2fluxes in the first year of perturbations, and around a ∼40% change in annual SO air‐sea CO2fluxes over the 6‐year duration of the experiment, with even greater changes on a seasonal timescale. This is primarily through altering the temperature and the dissolved inorganic carbon and alkalinity distribution in the surface water. Given the high spatiotemporal variability of processes that induce small‐scale background mixing, this work demonstrates the importance of their representation in climate models for accurate simulation of global biogeochemical cycles.

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

    The core Argo array has operated with the design goal of uniform spatial distribution of 3° in latitude and longitude. Recent studies have acknowledged that spatial and temporal scales of variability in some parts of the ocean are not resolved by 3° sampling and have recommended increased core Argo density in the equatorial region, boundary currents, and marginal seas with an integrated vision of other Argo variants. Biogeochemical (BGC) Argo floats currently observe the ocean from a collection of pilot arrays, but recently funded proposals will transition these pilot arrays to a global array. The current BGC Argo implementation plan recommends uniform spatial distribution of BGC Argo floats. For the first time, we estimate the effectiveness of the existing BGC Argo array to resolve the anomaly from the mean using a subset of modeled, full-depth BGC fields. We also study the effectiveness of uniformly distributed BGC Argo arrays with varying float densities at observing the ocean. Then, using previous Argo trajectories, we estimate the Argo array’s future distribution and quantify how well it observes the ocean. Finally, using a novel technique for sequentially identifying the best deployment locations, we suggest the optimal array distribution for BGC Argo floats to minimize objective mapping uncertainty in a subset of BGC fields and to best constrain BGC temporal variability.

     
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  7. Abstract

    Submesoscale currents and internal gravity waves achieve an intense turbulent cascade near the ocean surface [depth of 0–O(100) m], which is thought to give rise to significant energy sources and sinks for mesoscale eddies. Here, we characterize the contributions of nonwave currents (NWCs; including eddies and fronts) and internal gravity waves (IGWs; including near-inertial motions, lee waves, and the internal wave continuum) to near-surface submesoscale turbulence in the Drake Passage. Using a numerical simulation, we combine Lagrangian filtering and a Helmholtz decomposition to identify NWCs and IGWs and to characterize their dynamics (rotational versus divergent). We show that NWCs and IGWs contribute in different proportions to the inverse and forward turbulent kinetic energy cascades, based on their dynamics and spatiotemporal scales. Purely rotational NWCs cause most of the inverse cascade, while coupled rotational–divergent components of NWCs and coupled NWC–IGWs cause the forward cascade. The cascade changes direction at a spatial scale at which motions become increasingly divergent. However, the forward cascade is ultimately limited by the motions’ spatiotemporal scales. The bulk of the forward cascade (80%–95%) is caused by NWCs and IGWs of small spatiotemporal scales (L< 10 km;T< 6 h), which are primarily rotational: submesoscale eddies, fronts, and the internal wave continuum. These motions also cause a significant part of the inverse cascade (30%). Our results highlight the requirement for high spatiotemporal resolutions to diagnose the properties and large-scale impacts of near-surface submesoscale turbulence accurately, with significant implications for ocean energy cycle study strategies.

     
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  8. Abstract

    We assess the Southern Ocean CO2uptake (1985–2018) using data sets gathered in the REgional Carbon Cycle Assessment and Processes Project Phase 2. The Southern Ocean acted as a sink for CO2with close agreement between simulation results from global ocean biogeochemistry models (GOBMs, 0.75 ± 0.28 PgC yr−1) andpCO2‐observation‐based products (0.73 ± 0.07 PgC yr−1). This sink is only half that reported by RECCAP1 for the same region and timeframe. The present‐day net uptake is to first order a response to rising atmospheric CO2, driving large amounts of anthropogenic CO2(Cant) into the ocean, thereby overcompensating the loss of natural CO2to the atmosphere. An apparent knowledge gap is the increase of the sink since 2000, withpCO2‐products suggesting a growth that is more than twice as strong and uncertain as that of GOBMs (0.26 ± 0.06 and 0.11 ± 0.03 Pg C yr−1 decade−1, respectively). This is despite nearly identicalpCO2trends in GOBMs andpCO2‐products when both products are compared only at the locations wherepCO2was measured. Seasonal analyses revealed agreement in driving processes in winter with uncertainty in the magnitude of outgassing, whereas discrepancies are more fundamental in summer, when GOBMs exhibit difficulties in simulating the effects of the non‐thermal processes of biology and mixing/circulation. Ocean interior accumulation of Cantpoints to an underestimate of Cantuptake and storage in GOBMs. Future work needs to link surface fluxes and interior ocean transport, build long overdue systematic observation networks and push toward better process understanding of drivers of the carbon cycle.

     
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available November 1, 2024
  9. Abstract

    Despite its importance for the global cycling of carbon, there are still large gaps in our understanding of the processes driving annual and seasonal carbon fluxes in the high‐latitude Southern Ocean. This is due in part to a historical paucity of observations in this remote, turbulent, and seasonally ice‐covered region. Here, we use autonomous biogeochemical float data spanning 6 full seasonal cycles and with circumpolar coverage of the Southern Ocean, complemented by atmospheric reanalysis, to construct a monthly climatology of the mixed layer budget of dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC). We investigate the processes that determine the annual mean and seasonal cycle of DIC fluxes in two different zones of the Southern Ocean—the Sea Ice Zone (SIZ) and Antarctic Southern Zone (ASZ). We find that, annually, mixing with carbon‐rich waters at the base of the mixed layer supplies DIC which is, in the ASZ, either used for net biological production or outgassed to the atmosphere. In contrast, in the SIZ, where carbon outgassing and the biological pump are weaker, the surplus of DIC is instead advected northward to the ASZ. In other words, carbon outgassing in the southern Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC), which has been attributed to remineralized carbon from deep water upwelled in the ACC, is also due to the wind‐driven transport of DIC from the SIZ. These results stem from the first observation‐based carbon budget of the circumpolar Southern Ocean and thus provide a useful benchmark to evaluate climate models, which have significant biases in this region.

     
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  10. Abstract

    Net community production (NCP) was estimated from nitrate profiles measured via biogeochemical Argo floats drifting in the Argentine Basin. Two criteria were tested for defining hydrographic fronts used to separate the study area into five zones: potential density anomaly at 450 m and potential temperature at 100 m. The latter definition was preferred as it minimized overlapping among zones. Float profiles within each zone were used to construct monthly median profiles of nitrate. Monthly nitrate inventories were calculated for each zone by integrating the median profiles between the surface and a depth of 100 or 200 m. Three methods were utilized to estimate NCP from the nitrate drawdown. The resulting mean NCP estimates indicated a decline in NCP from 3 to 4 mol C m−2 yr−1south of ∼40°S to ≤1 mol C m−2 yr−1north of ∼40°S. The monthly median profiles suggested 20%–100% of drawdown occurred by the end of December; however, chlorophyll fluorescence indicated phytoplankton activity persisted through austral summer. We speculate that primary production during these summer months was supported by regenerated nitrogen sources (not nitrate), despite replete concentrations, likely due to the relative scarcity of bioavailable iron known to persist in the region. While a northward advective flux of nitrate was strongly suggested by meridional nitrate gradients over the upper 0–300 m, vertical mixing was apparently necessary to stimulate new production, indicating both processes are important for NCP in the Argentine Basin. This work highlights the potential for floats in studying biogeochemical cycles in hydrographically complex regions.

     
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available August 1, 2024