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Title: The Influence of Antarctic Open-Ocean Polynyas on the Abyssal Ocean
Authors: Zanowski, Hannah
Advisors: Hallberg, Robert
Contributors: Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences Department
Keywords: abyssal ocean
Weddell Sea
Subjects: Physical oceanography
Issue Date: 2017
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: In the mid-1970s, an enormous open-ocean polynya developed in the Weddell Sea. Since the Weddell Polynya's occurrence, no polynya of similar size or duration has been observed in the region. A polynya of this magnitude could significantly affect global abyssal ocean properties via increased Antarctic Bottom Water (AABW) formation and large Weddell Sea water mass property perturbations. However, the scarcity of 1970s Weddell Sea observations, coupled with the sparseness of abyssal ocean observations, make it difficult to study this phenomenon's oceanic impact without models. This dissertation examines the influence of Weddell Polynyas on abyssal ocean water mass properties and circulation using the GFDL CM2G coupled climate model. Abyssal ocean temperature, salinity, and water mass changes resulting from Weddell Polynyas are quantified in CM2G and compared to observations. The model polynyas initially cool the abyssal Southern Ocean and South Atlantic, but 2-3 decades after polynya cessation the same regions warm as they relax toward their mean state. Composites of multiple, spontaneously-occurring polynyas in CM2G reveal that up to 10% of recently observed warming in the abyssal Southern Ocean could be the result of the 1970s Weddell Polynya recovery. Weddell Polynya transport mechanisms are also investigated. Polynya signal transport is governed by two processes acting on different timescales and spreading at different rates: 1) topographic and planetary waves that act on interannual-to-decadal timescales, and 2) advection that acts on decadal-to-centennial timescales. Both mechanisms generate property changes on isobaths. Despite different spreading rates, the advective and wave signals act contemporaneously in many Southern Hemisphere abyssal basins. The combined effect and relative magnitude of the two signals dictates the prevailing property changes. During Weddell Polynyas, vigorous exchange occurs between the surface and deep waters, resulting in increased abyssal ventilation. In climate models, ideal age tracer is often used to investigate oceanic ventilation. This tracer suffers from several flaws that detract from its suitability as a ventilation diagnostic. We develop a new tracer, λ-age, that rectifies some of ideal age's problematic aspects and examine its utility in an offline tracer model.
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Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences

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