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Volume 8, issue 4
Ocean Sci., 8, 419–432, 2012
https://doi.org/10.5194/os-8-419-2012
© Author(s) 2012. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

Special issue: Synoptic Antarctic Shelf-Slope Interactions (SASSI)

Ocean Sci., 8, 419–432, 2012
https://doi.org/10.5194/os-8-419-2012
© Author(s) 2012. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

Research article 09 Jul 2012

Research article | 09 Jul 2012

Influence of Ross Sea Bottom Water changes on the warming and freshening of the Antarctic Bottom Water in the Australian-Antarctic Basin

K. Shimada1, S. Aoki1, K. I. Ohshima1, and S. R. Rintoul4,2,3,5 K. Shimada et al.
  • 1Institute of Low Temperature Science, Hokkaido University, Sapporo, Japan
  • 2CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia
  • 3Centre for Australian Weather and Climate Research, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia
  • 4Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems Cooperative Research Centre, University of Tasmania, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia
  • 5CSIRO Wealth from Oceans National Research Flagship, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia

Abstract. Changes to the properties of Antarctic Bottom Water in the Australian-Antarctic Basin (AA-AABW) between the 1990s and 2000s are documented using data from the WOCE Hydrographic Program (WHP) and repeated hydrographic surveys. Strong cooling and freshening are observed on isopycnal layers denser than γn = 28.30 kg m−3. Changes in the average salinity and potential temperature below this isopycnal correspond to a basin-wide warming of 1300 ± 200 GW and freshening of 24 ± 3 Gt year−1. Recent changes to dense shelf water in the source regions in the Ross Sea and George V Land can explain the freshening of AA-AABW but not its extensive warming. An alternative mechanism for this warming is a decrease in the supply of AABW from the Ross Sea (RSBW). Hydrographic profiles between the western Ross Sea and George V Land (171–158° E) were analyzed with a simple advective-diffusive model to assess the causes of the observed changes. The model suggests that the warming of RSBW observed between the 1970s and 2000s can be explained by a 21 ± 23% reduction in RSBW transport and the enhancement of the vertical diffusion of heat resulting from a 30 ± 7% weakening of the abyssal stratification. The documented freshening of Ross Sea dense shelf water leads to a reduction in both salinity and density stratification. Therefore the direct freshening of RSBW at its source also produces an indirect warming of the RSBW. A simple box model suggests that the changes in RSBW properties and volume transport (a decrease of 6.7% is assumed between the year 1995 and 2005) can explain 51 ± 6% of the warming and 84 ± 10% of the freshening observed in AA-AABW.

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