The Southern Ocean renders a significant contribution to the global overturning system through the formation of deep and bottom waters. The Weddell Sea is one of the most prominent regions in this respect. Data obtained between 1984 and 2008 from eight repeat hydrographic sections, moored instruments and profiling floats in the Weddell gyre on the Greenwich meridian – almost all of them collected with RV Polarstern – were used to identify variations in the Weddell system. Fluctuations in the water mass properties were detected in the Warm Deep Water, with a temperature maximum in the 1990s and a minimum in 2005, but also significant variations occurred in the Weddell Sea Deep - and Bottom Waters. Whereas the Warm Deep Water is dominated by decadal variations, the average temperature and salinity of the whole water column is subject to a positive trend over 24 years. The variations of the water mass properties are induced by variations of the inflow of Circumpolar Deep Water at the boundary. Due to asymmetric wind forcing at the northern and the southern limb of the gyre, variable in- and outflows occur at the open boundaries. Internal processes redistribute heat and salt in the gyre resulting in a long-term increase of the temperature and salinity in the whole water column. The transfer of heat to deeper layers assigns to the Weddell gyre the role of a buffer, with potential impact on the global climate.
Helmholtz Research Programs > PACES I (2009-2013) > TOPIC 1: The Changing Arctic and Antarctic > WP 1.4: Antarctic Circumpolar Climate and Ecosystem Study