Winter seal-based observations reveal glacial meltwater surfacing in the southeastern Amundsen Sea

Zheng, Yixi, Heywood, Karen J. ORCID:, Webber, Benjamin G. M. ORCID:, Stevens, David P. ORCID:, Biddle, Louise C., Boehme, Lars and Loose, Brice (2021) Winter seal-based observations reveal glacial meltwater surfacing in the southeastern Amundsen Sea. Communications Earth & Environment, 2. ISSN 2662-4435

[thumbnail of Zheng_etal_2021_CommsEarthEnv]
PDF (Zheng_etal_2021_CommsEarthEnv) - Published Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution.

Download (1MB) | Preview


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.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: Acknowledgements: We thank the scientists, technicians and crew of the RSS James Clark Ross on the iSTAR cruise, especially those who helped with hydrographic measurements, for their hard work during the cruise to make the data collection possible. We thank Michael A. Fedak (Sea Mammal Research Unit, University of St Andrews) for help with seal tagging and Helen Mallett for quality control of seal-tag data after the iSTAR cruise. We thank Anna Wåhlin (University of Gothenburg), Alessandro Silvano (University of Southampton) and Shenjie Zhou (British Antarctic Survey) for helpful discussion. This work is funded by the UK Natural Environment Research Council under the iSTAR Programme through grants NE/J005703/1 (K.J.H., D.P.S., B.G.M.W.); European Research Council (under H2020-EU.1.1.) under research grant COMPASS (Climate-relevant Ocean Measurements and Processes on the Antarctic continental Shelf and Slope, grant agreement ID: 741120, K.J.H., Y.Z.); National Science Foundation Division of Polar Programs and Natural Environment Research Council under the research grant TARSAN (Thwaites-Amundsen Regional Survey and Network, NSF PLR 1738992 and NE/S006419/1, K.J.H.). Y.Z. is supported by China Scholarship Council and University of East Anglia. L.C.B. is supported by a Wallenberg Academy Fellowship (WAF 2015.0186) and Swedish Research Council grant (VR2019-04400) of S. Swart.
Uncontrolled Keywords: environmental science(all),earth and planetary sciences(all),sdg 13 - climate action ,/dk/atira/pure/subjectarea/asjc/2300
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Science > School of Environmental Sciences
Faculty of Science > School of Mathematics
University of East Anglia Research Groups/Centres > Theme - ClimateUEA
UEA Research Groups: Faculty of Science > Research Groups > Centre for Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences
Faculty of Science > Research Groups > Climatic Research Unit
Faculty of Science > Research Groups > Fluid and Solid Mechanics
Related URLs:
Depositing User: LivePure Connector
Date Deposited: 30 Jan 2021 01:12
Last Modified: 14 Jun 2023 20:31
DOI: 10.1038/s43247-021-00111-z


Downloads per month over past year

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item