Journal Article Circumpolar Mapping of Antarctic Coastal Polynyas and Landfast Sea Ice: Relationship and Variability

Nihashi, Sohey  ,  Ohshima, Kay I.

28 ( 9 )  , pp.3650 - 3670 , 2015-05-29 , American Meteorological Society
Sinking of dense water from Antarctic coastal polynyas produces Antarctic Bottom Water (AABW), which is the densest water in the global overturning circulation and is a key player in climate change as a significant sink for heat and carbon dioxide. Very recent studies have suggested that landfast sea ice (fast ice) plays an important role in the formation and variability of the polynyas and possibly AABW. However, they have been limited to regional and case investigations only. This study provides the first coincident circumpolar mapping of Antarctic coastal polynyas and fast ice. The map reveals that most of the polynyas are formed on the western side of fast ice, indicating an important role of fast ice in the polynya formation. Winds diverging from a boundary comprising both coastline and fast ice are the primary determinant of polynya formation. The blocking effect of fast ice on westward sea ice advection by the coastal current would be another key factor. These effects on the variability in sea ice production for 13 major polynyas are evaluated quantitatively. Furthermore, it is demonstrated that a drastic change in fast ice extent, which is particularly vulnerable to climate change, causes dramatic changes in the polynyas and possibly AABW formation that can potentially contribute to further climate change. These results suggest that fast ice and precise polynya processes should be addressed by next-generation models to produce more accurate climate projections. This study provides the boundary and validation data of fast ice and sea ice production for such models.

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