FRIS Revisited in 2018: On the Circulation and Water Masses at the Filchner and Ronne Ice Shelves in the Southern Weddell Sea

Markus.Janout [ at ]


The Filchner-Ronne Ice Shelf (FRIS) is characterized by moderate basal melt rates due to the near-freezing waters that dominate the wide southern Weddell Sea continental shelf. We revisited the region in austral summer 2018 with detailed hydrographic and noble gas surveys along FRIS. The FRIS front was characterized by High Salinity Shelf Water (HSSW) in Ronne Depression, Ice Shelf Water (ISW) on its eastern flank, and an inflow of modified Warm Deep Water (mWDW) entering through Central Trough. Filchner Trough was dominated by Ronne HSSW-sourced ISW, likely forced by a recently intensified circulation beneath FRIS due to enhanced sea ice production in the Ronne polynya since 2015. Glacial meltwater fractions and tracer-based water mass dating indicate two separate ISW outflow cores, one hugging the Berkner slope after a two-year travel time, and the other located in the central Filchner Trough following a ∼six year-long transit through the FRIS cavity. Historical measurements indicate the presence of two distinct modes, in which water masses in Filchner Trough were dominated by either Ronne HSSW-derived ISW (Ronne-mode) or more locally derived Berkner-HSSW (Berkner-mode). While the dominance of these modes has alternated on interannual time scales, ocean densities in Filchner Trough have remained remarkably stable since the first surveys in 1980. Indeed, geostrophic velocities indicated outflowing ISW-cores along the trough's western flank and onto Berkner Bank, which suggests that Ronne-ISW preconditions Berkner-HSSW production. The negligible density difference between Berkner- and Ronne-mode waters indicates that each contributes cold dense shelf waters to protect FRIS against inflowing mWDW.

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DOI 10.1029/2021JC017269

Cite as
Janout, M. A. , Hellmer, H. H. , Hattermann, T. , Huhn, O. , Sültenfuss, J. , Østerhus, S. , Stulic, L. , Ryan, S. , Schröder, M. and Kanzow, T. (2021): FRIS Revisited in 2018: On the Circulation and Water Masses at the Filchner and Ronne Ice Shelves in the Southern Weddell Sea , Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans, 126 (6), e2021JC017269 . doi: 10.1029/2021JC017269

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