Coherent seasonal acceleration of theWeddell Sea boundary current system driven by upstream winds

nicolas.le.paih [ at ]


Abstract The Weddell Sea is of global importance in the formation of dense bottom waters associated with sea-ice formation and ocean-ice sheet interaction occurring on the shelf areas. In this context, the Weddell Sea boundary current system (BCS) presents a major conduit for transporting relatively warm water to the Weddell Sea ice shelves and for exporting some modified form of Wedell Sea deep and bottom waters into the open ocean. This study investigates the downstream evolution of the structure and the seasonality of the BCS along the Weddell Sea continental slope, combining ocean data collected for the past two decades at three study locations. The interannual-mean geostrophic flow, which follows planetary potential vorticity contours, shifts from being surface-intensified to bottom intensified along-stream. The shift occurs due to the densification of water masses and the decreasing surface stress that occurs westward, towards the Antarctic Peninsula. A coherent along-slope seasonal acceleration of the barotropic flow exists, with maximum speed in austral autumn and minimum speed in austral summer. The barotropic flow significantly contributes to the seasonal variability in bottom velocity along the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula. Our analysis suggests that the winds on the eastern/north-eastern side of the gyre determines the seasonal acceleration of the barotropic flow. In turn, they might control the export of Weddell Sea Bottom Water on seasonal time-scales. The processes controlling the baroclinic seasonality of the flow need further investigation.

Item Type
Primary Division
Primary Topic
Research Networks
Peer revision
ISI/Scopus peer-reviewed
Publication Status
Eprint ID
DOI 10.1029/2020JC016316

Cite as
Le Paih, N. , Hattermann, T. , Boebel, O. , Kanzow, T. , Lüpkes, C. , Rohardt, G. , Strass, V. and Herbette, S. (2020): Coherent seasonal acceleration of theWeddell Sea boundary current system driven by upstream winds , Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans, 125 (10), e2020JC016316 . doi: 10.1029/2020JC016316



Research Platforms


Funded by
DFG GRANT CA 1687/1‐1

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