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Dense shelf water production in the Adelie Depression, East Antarctica, 2004-2012: Impact of the Mertz Glacier calving

Abstract : Summer repeated hydrographic surveys and 4 years of mooring observations are used to characterize for the first time the interannual variability of the bottom water in the Mertz Glacier Polynya (MGP) on the East Antarctic shelf (142 E–146 E). Until 2010, large interannual variability was observed in the summer bottom salinity with year-to-year changes reaching 0.12 in Commonwealth Bay, the region with the highest sea ice production. The summer variability was shown to be linked to the efficiency of the convection during the preceding winter. The recent freshening of the bottom waters subsequent to the Mertz Glacier calving was well beyond the range of the precalving interannual variability. Within 2 years after the event, the bottom water of the shelf became too light to possibly contribute to renewal of the Antarctic Bottom Water. Rough estimates of the freshwater budget of the Ad elie Depression indicate that the freshening necessary to compensate for net sea ice production in the MGP did not change drasti-cally after the Mertz calving. The year-to-year salinity changes appeared to respond to the MGP activity. Yet, prior to the calving, the convective system in the polynya was also partly controlled by the late winter bottom salinity through a mechanism leading to a sequence of alternatively fresher and more saline bot-tom waters over the period 2007–2010. Exceptional events like the Mertz calving seem to be able to switch over the system into a less stratified state where convection responds more directly to changes in the surface forcing.
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Maïté Lacarra, Marie-Noëlle Houssais, Christophe Herbaut, Emmanuelle Sultan, Mickael Beauverger. Dense shelf water production in the Adelie Depression, East Antarctica, 2004-2012: Impact of the Mertz Glacier calving. Journal of Geophysical Research. Oceans, Wiley-Blackwell, 2014, 119 (8), pp.5203-5220. ⟨10.1002/2013JC009124⟩. ⟨hal-01111515⟩

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