New observations of late summer bio-physical ice and snow conditions in the northwestern Weddell Sea

Stefanie.Arndt [ at ]


Summer sea ice extent in the Weddell Sea has increased overall during the last four decades, with large interannual variations. However, the underlying causes and the related ice and snow properties are still poorly known. Here we present results of the interdisciplinary Weddell Sea Ice (WedIce) project carried out in the northwestern Weddell Sea on board the German icebreaker R/V Polarstern in February and March 2019, i.e. at the end of the summer ablation period. This is the region of the thickest, oldest ice in the Weddell Sea, at the outflow of the Weddell Gyre. Measurements included airborne ice thickness surveys and in-situ snow and ice sampling of mostly second- and third year ice. Preliminary results show mean ice thicknesses between 2.6 and 5.4 m, increasing from the Antarctic Sound towards the Larsen B region. The ice had mostly positive ice freeboard. Mean snow thicknesses ranged between 0.05 and 0.46 m. Snow was well below the melting temperature on most days and was highly metamorphic and icy, with melt-freeze forms as dominant snow type. In addition, as a result of the summer’s thaw, an average of 0.14 m of superimposed ice was found in all ice cores drilled during the cruise. Although there was rotten ice below a solid, ca. 30 cm thick surface ice layer, pronounced gap layers typical for late summer ice in the marginal ice zone were rare, and algal biomass was patchily distributed within individual sea ice cores. Overall, there was a strong gradient of increasing ice algal biomass from the Larsen B to the Antarctic Sound region. The presented results show that sea ice conditions in the northwestern Weddell Sea are still severe and have not changed significantly since the last observations carried out in 2004 and 2006. The presence of relatively thin, icy snow has strong implications for the ice and snow mass balance, for freshwater oceanography, and for the application of remote sensing methods. Overall sea ice properties strongly affect the biological productivity of this region and limit carbon fluxes to the seafloor in the northwestern Weddell Sea.

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Conference (Poster)
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Event Details
IGS Sea Ice Symposium 2019, 18 Aug 2019 - 23 Aug 2019, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.
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Haas, C. , Arndt, S. and Peeken, I. (2019): New observations of late summer bio-physical ice and snow conditions in the northwestern Weddell Sea , IGS Sea Ice Symposium 2019, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, 18 August 2019 - 23 August 2019 .

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