Antarctic Science

Modelling the ocean circulation beneath the Ross Ice Shelf

a1 Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences, New York University, New York, NY 10012, USA
a2 Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University, Palisades, New York, NY 10964, USA
a3 British Antarctic Survey, NERC, High Cross, Madingley Rd, Cambridge CB3 0ET, UK


We applied a modified version of the Miami isopycnic coordinate ocean general circulation model (MICOM) to the ocean cavity beneath the Ross Ice Shelf to investigate the circulation of ocean waters in the sub-ice shelf cavity, along with the melting and freezing regimes at the base of the ice shelf. Model passive tracers are utilized to highlight the pathways of waters entering and exiting the cavity, and output is compared with data taken in the cavity and along the ice shelf front. High Salinity Shelf Water on the western Ross Sea continental shelf flows into the cavity along the sea floor and is transformed into Ice Shelf Water upon contact with the ice shelf base. Ice Shelf Water flows out of the cavity mainly around 180°, but also further east and on the western side of McMurdo Sound, as observed. Active ventilation of the region near the ice shelf front is forced by seasonal variations in the density structure of the water column to the north, driving rapid melting. Circulation in the more isolated interior is weaker, leading to melting at deeper ice and refreezing beneath shallower ice. Net melting over the whole ice shelf base is lower than other estimates, but is likely to increase as additional forcings are added to the model.

(Received March 1 2002)
(Accepted October 9 2002)

Key Words: Antarctica; isopycnic ocean model; Ross Sea.