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Regional modelling of ocean processes in the Bellingshausen Sea

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Open to non-BAS; please contact Robert Bingham (rgbi (at) bas.ac.uk) if you would like to attend.

In the vicinity of the Antarctic Peninsula observations show diminishing sea ice and a rapid warming of atmosphere and ocean. These changes have led to the collapse of ice shelves and retreat, acceleration, and thinning of inland ice. However, ocean observations in the centre of the nearby Bellingshausen Sea are spatially and temporally coarse. In this study, ocean and sea ice models forced by atmospheric reanalyses are used to model ocean processes in the Bellingshausen Sea for the years 1979—2007. The model elucidates flow features in the region and predicts the basal melting of nearby ice shelves. Ocean conditions are found to be less variable than in the nearby Amundsen Sea, which is situated closer to local foci of annual and interannual atmospheric variability. Melt rates beneath George VI Ice Shelf are investigated in some detail, concluding that the ice shelf may have been melting out of balance (and therefore thinning) for decades. The melt rate contains significant interannual variability that the model links to variation in local sea ice conditions. This stands in contrast to the Amundsen Sea, where it has been suggested that ice shelf melting is controlled by the transport of Circumpolar Deep Water onto the continental shelf.

This talk is part of the British Antarctic Survey series.

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