Changes in Antarctic Bottom Water properties in the western South Atlantic in the late 1980s


  • Victoria J. Coles,

  • Michael S. McCartney,

  • Donald B. Olson,

  • William M. Smethie Jr.


Data collected in 1988–1989, as part of the South Atlantic Ventilation Experiment, have been combined with the historical database to study the circulation and water mass variability of the abyssal water in the Argentine Basin. A map of potential temperature at 4000 m used as an indication of geostrophic shear defines a south and western intensified crescent-shaped abyssal recirculation. Within this recirculation, and its northward extension to the Brazil Basin, Antarctic Bottom Water (AABW) properties have undergone two modifications during the 1980s: (1) The water mass cooled (0.05°C) and freshened (0.008 in salinity ratio) on surfaces of constant density. (2) The densest layer of AABW was altered to less dense water through mixing or advection out of the study area. This water mass change does not appear to have affected the flow pattern. Data collected in 1983 and 1988 to the north in the Brazil Basin show penetration of the freshwater mass in the deep western boundary current to between 18°S and 10°S, indicating very rapid propagation of the anomaly from the Argentine Basin into the Brazil Basin as a deep western boundary current. It is suggested that open ocean convective events within the Weddell Sea contributed to the change in AABW documented here.