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Geophysical Research Letters

Rapid subsurface warming and circulation changes of Antarctic coastal waters by poleward shifting winds

Authors

  • Paul Spence,

    Corresponding author
    1. ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science, University of New South Wales, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
    2. Climate Change Research Centre, University of New South Wales, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
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  • Stephen M. Griffies,

    1. NOAA Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, Princeton, New Jersey, USA
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  • Matthew H. England,

    1. ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science, University of New South Wales, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
    2. Climate Change Research Centre, University of New South Wales, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
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  • Andrew McC. Hogg,

    1. ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science and Research School of Earth Sciences, Australian National University, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, Australia
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  • Oleg A. Saenko,

    1. Canadian Centre for Climate Modelling and Analysis, Environment Canada, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada
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  • Nicolas C. Jourdain

    1. Climate Change Research Centre, University of New South Wales, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
    2. Laboratoire de Glaciologie et Géophysique de l'Environnement, Université de Grenoble/Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Grenoble, France
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Abstract

The southern hemisphere westerly winds have been strengthening and shifting poleward since the 1950s. This wind trend is projected to persist under continued anthropogenic forcing, but the impact of the changing winds on Antarctic coastal heat distribution remains poorly understood. Here we show that a poleward wind shift at the latitudes of the Antarctic Peninsula can produce an intense warming of subsurface coastal waters that exceeds 2°C at 200–700 m depth. The model simulated warming results from a rapid advective heat flux induced by weakened near-shore Ekman pumping and is associated with weakened coastal currents. This analysis shows that anthropogenically induced wind changes can dramatically increase the temperature of ocean water at ice sheet grounding lines and at the base of floating ice shelves around Antarctica, with potentially significant ramifications for global sea level rise.

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