Numerical simulations of the Ross Sea tides


  • Douglas Reed MacAyeal


Tidal currents below the floating Ross Ice shelf are reconstructed by using a numerical tidal model. They are predominantly diurnal, achieve maximum strength in regions near where the ice shelf runs aground, and are significantly enhanced by topographic Rossby wave propagation along the ice front. A comparison with observations of the vertical motion of the ice shelf surface indicates that the model reproduces the diurnal tidal characteristics within 20%. Similar agreement for the relatively weak semi-diurnal tides was not obtained, and this calls attention to possible errors of the open boundary forcing obtained from global-ocean tidal simulations and to possible errors in mapping zones of ice shelf grounding. Air-sea contact below the ice shelf is eliminated by the thick ice cover. The dominant sub-ice-shelf circulation may thus be tidally induced. A preliminary assessment of sub-ice-shelf conditions based on the numerical tidal simulations suggests that (1) strong barotropic circulation is driven along the ice front and (2) tidal fronts may form in the sub-ice-shelf cavity where the water column is thin and where the buoyancy input is weak.