The suppression of Antarctic bottom water formation by melting ice shelves in Prydz Bay

G. D. Williams*, L. Herraiz-Borreguero, F. Roquet, T. Tamura, K. I. Ohshima, Y. Fukamachi, A. D. Fraser, L. Gao, H. Chen, C. R. McMahon, R. Harcourt, M. Hindell

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

67 Citations (Scopus)
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Abstract

A fourth production region for the globally important Antarctic bottom water has been attributed to dense shelf water formation in the Cape Darnley Polynya, adjoining Prydz Bay in East Antarctica. Here we show new observations from CTD-instrumented elephant seals in 2011-2013 that provide the first complete assessment of dense shelf water formation in Prydz Bay. After a complex evolution involving opposing contributions from three polynyas (positive) and two ice shelves (negative), dense shelf water (salinity 34.65-34.7) is exported through Prydz Channel. This provides a distinct, relatively fresh contribution to Cape Darnley bottom water. Elsewhere, dense water formation is hindered by the freshwater input from the Amery and West Ice Shelves into the Prydz Bay Gyre. This study highlights the susceptibility of Antarctic bottom water to increased freshwater input from the enhanced melting of ice shelves, and ultimately the potential collapse of Antarctic bottom water formation in a warming climate.

Original languageEnglish
Article number12577
Pages (from-to)1-9
Number of pages9
JournalNature Communications
Volume7
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 23 Aug 2016

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2016. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.

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