University of Cambridge > > British Antarctic Survey - Polar Oceans seminar series > Drivers and reversibility of abrupt ocean cold-to-warm and warm-to-cold transitions in the Amundsen Sea

Drivers and reversibility of abrupt ocean cold-to-warm and warm-to-cold transitions in the Amundsen Sea

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact Dr Birgit Rogalla.

Ocean warming around Antarctica has the potential to trigger marine ice-sheet instabilities. It has been suggested that abrupt and irreversible cold-to-warm ocean tipping points may exist, with possible domino effect from ocean to ice-sheet tipping points. A 1 /4° ocean model configuration of the Amundsen Sea sector is used to investigate the existence of ocean tipping points, their drivers, and their potential impact on ice-shelf basal melting. We apply idealized atmospheric perturbations of either heat, freshwater, or momentum fluxes, and we characterize the key physical processes at play in warm-to-cold and cold-to-warm climate transitions. Relatively weak perturbations of any of these fluxes are able to switch the Amundsen Sea to an intermittent or permanent cold state, that is, with ocean temperatures close to the surface freezing point and very low ice-shelf melt rate. The transitions are reversible, that is, canceling the atmospheric perturbation brings the ocean system back to its unperturbed state within a few decades. All the transitions are primarily driven by changes in surface buoyancy fluxes resulting from the freshwater flux perturbation or from modified net sea-ice production due to either heat flux or sea-ice advection anomalies. These changes affect the vertical ocean stratification over the continental shelf and thereby the eastward undercurrent at the shelf break, which both impact ice-shelf melting.

This talk is part of the British Antarctic Survey - Polar Oceans seminar series series.

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