Atmospheric and oceanic forcing of Weddell Sea ice motion


  • C. Kottmeier,

  • Lutz Sellmann


The data from sea ice buoys, which were deployed during the Winter Weddell Sea Project 1986, the Winter Weddell Gyre Studies 1989 and 1992, the Ice Station Weddell in 1992, the Antarctic Zone Flux Experiment in 1994, and several ship cruises in Austral summers, are uniformly reanalyzed by the same objective methods. Geostrophic winds are derived after matching of the buoy pressure data with the surface pressure fields of the European Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasts. The ratio between ice drift and geostrophic wind speeds is reduced when winds and currents oppose each other, when the atmospheric surface layer is stably stratified, and when the ice is under pressure near coasts. Over the continental shelves, the spatial inhomogeneity of tidal and inertial motion effectively controls the variability of divergence for periods below 36 hours. Far from coasts, speed ratios, which presumably reflect internal stress variations in the ice cover, are independent of drift divergence on the spatial scale of 100 km. To study basin-scale ice dynamics, all ice drift data are related to the geostrophic winds based on the complex linear model [Thorndike and Colony, 1982] for daily averaged data. The composite patterns of mean ice motion, geostrophic winds, and geostrophic surface currents document cyclonic basin-wide circulations. Geostrophic ocean currents are generally small in the Weddell Sea. Significant features are the coastal current near the southeastern coasts and the bands of larger velocities of ≈6 cm s−1 following the northward and eastward orientation of the continental shelf breaks in the western and northwestern Weddell Sea. In the southwestern Weddell Sea the mean ice drift speed is reduced to less than 0.5% of the geostrophic wind speed and increases rather continuously to 1.5% in the northern, central, and eastern Weddell Sea. The linear model accounts for less than 50% of the total variance of drift speeds in the southwestern Weddell Sea and up to 80% in the northern and eastern Weddell Sea.