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ADVANCES IN STUDIES ON WATER MASSES, CIRCULATION AND SEA ICE IN THE

SOUTHERN OCEAN

SHI Jiuxin and ZHAO Jinping

First Institute of Oceanography, State Oceanic Administration, Qingdao 266061, China

 

Ninteen Chinese National Antarctic Research Expeditions (CHINARE) have been dispatched in succession since 1984. Most of these expeditions were executed by research vessels, which included marine science cruises of the Southern Ocean. After the Chinese Zhongshan Station was established in the East Antarctica in 1989, the region of Prydz Bay near the Zhongshan Station becomes one of the key areas for Chinese scientists to conduct the Southern Ocean research. Physical, chemical and biological data have been collected in this area since then and the related research work has been carried out for many years. The sea ice in the Southern Ocean has significant seasonal variation, whose variation amplitude is only less than that of the annual cycle of snow cover in the northern hemisphere in the cryoshere, which shows that sea ice in the Southern Ocean influences the global climate strongly. By using remote sensing, the long-term time series data of sea ice can be obtained. Therefore, the another interesting problem provoking the attention of Chinese scientists is the variations of sea ice in the Southern Ocean and their relations with climatic changes. In the past 8 years, great progresses in studies of the Southern Ocean have been made. The main results of Chinese scientists in the studies on water masses, circulation and sea ice in the Southern Ocean are summarized in this paper.

 

I.  WATER MASSES AND CIRCULATION IN THE REGION OF PRYDZ BAY

With an area of about 6´104 km2, the Prydz Bay is the third large bay around the Antarctica, just smaller than the Weddell Sea and the Ross Sea. It's located in the range of 67°45¢69°30¢S70°80°E, in the Indian section of the Southern Ocean. At its east bank, the Chinese Zhongshan Station69° 22¢24¢¢S76°22¢40¢¢E was built in 1989. Since then, the region of Prydz Bay become a key area of Chinese Antarctic Research Expedition. Besides some data observed around the Chinese Great Wall Station62°12¢59¢¢S58° 57¢52¢¢Wand on the way to the Antarctica (Yang et al., 1997, for example), most oceanographic data have been collected from the fixed stations in the region of Prydz Bay. These field observations were firstly carried out as a part of survey of krill resource (Shi et al., 1995a) and then were performed for the studies of water masses and circulation.

1.  Water Mass

There are 4 water masses , in the upper layer of the region, i.e. the Antarctic Surface Water (ASW), Winter Water(WW), Circumpolar Deep Water (CDW) and Shelf Water (SW). All these water masses have been found in the observed data of CHINARE (Shi and Ning, 1995; Le et al., 1996; Pu et al., 2000b). Nine meridional observed sections were designed (between 68° E and 108° E) during CHINARE-7 (1990-1991). An analysis of the CHINARE-7 data showed the following different features in both sides of 83°E due to the topographic influence of the Kerguelen Plateau (Chen et al., 1995). To the west of 83°E (i.e. in Prydz Bay and its northern area), the depth of ASW was about 20 m with its maximum depth of 30 m at the top of the bay (Zhao and Chen, 1995), and WW was located in 30-70 m, CDW was located below 70m with the maximum temperature being of 1.85-2.00°C at the center of CDW. To the east of 83°E, i.e. to the east of Prydz Bay, ASW was located in 0-30 m, WW in 50-100 m, and CDW below 100 m; the temperature at the center of CDW was lower than that in the west part with minimum of 1.04°C and maximum of 1.49°C, which indicates the stronger influence of SW to the east of 83°E. The observed sections of CHINARE-9 (1992-1993) are located between 58° and 83° E. Upwelling of CDW is found from the CTD data of CHINARE-9. The strongest upwelling is found to be in the depth of 50-200 m to the west of Prydz Bay (Yu et al., 1996b,1998). The ANARE data in the same time also showed several high temperature water blocks to the north of 66°S, which was considered as the result of the CDW upwelling (Shi and Ning, 1995). A recent analysis (Pu et al., 2002) of CHINARE-15 (1998-1999) showed that CDW extended southward in depths between100 m and 2000 m; both the high temperature core (>1.2°C) and high salinity core (>34.7) of CDW became the thickest and extended the furthest southward at section 75°E. Pu et al. (2000a) attributed the strong upwelling of CDW to the cyclonic eddies in this area. The same data also indicated the northward extension of SW (Pu et al., 2000b). The strength of SW became weaker as it extended northward. To the north of 65°S, an inversion layer appeared in the subsurface layer in the depth of 50-200 m and its vertical gradient was located around depth of 50 m. Pu et al. (2000b) thought that the extension of SW had significant baroclinic characteristics and was affected by the Coriolis force.

Another important water mass in this region is the Antarctic Bottom Water (AABW) at the bottom layer. The origin of AABW in the region of Prydz Bay is an interesting issue for oceanographers. Le et al. (1996) analyzed the T-S diagram and chemical data of CHINARE-6 (1989-1990) and CHINARE-7. They found that CDW could extend upon the shelf and SW with the maximum salinity of 34.65 could sink down along the shelf break to the depth of 800 m and mixed with CDW. A further study (Le and Shi, 1997) showed that the denser water (st =27.90) formed by the mixture of CDW and SW at 68°73°E and 98°108°E could sink down to 900 m, which provided a precondition of AABW's formation. However, the formation of this kind of denser water (also called Prydz Bay Bottom Water) had been found only once (January of 1991) from 1990 to 1993 (Le et al., 1998). The CTD data near the sea bottom collected from the succeeding cruises provided a direct acquaintance of the AABW in this region. For example, the CTD data of CHINARE-9 showed that AABW existed in the deep area outside of the bay (Yu et al., 1996b; 1998). An analysis of the CHINARE-15 data (Pu et al., 2002) indicated that the AABW extended northward from the slope bottom to the depth below 2500 m and the high density water (sq >27.875) was the thickest and reached its northernmost location at section 70°E. Based upon the above results, the origin of AABW in this region is still unknown, i.e. it could be formed locally or be transported from the Weddell Sea and the Ross Sea.

2.  Circulation

In the region of Prydz Bay, the eastward Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC) exists in the northern deep area; a westward coastal current appears in the coastal area; and a clock wise eddy is located within the Prydz Bay. The above circulation patterns have been confirmed by many dynamical calculations based upon the CTD data (Gao et al., 1995b; Su, 1996; Yu et al., 1996b; 1996c; 1998; Le and Shi, 1997; Pu et al., 2000a) and the numerical simulations (Shi et al., 1995e; Shi et al., 2000a; 2000b)

Chen et al. (1995) analyzed the dynamic height field calculated from the CHINARE-9 CTD data. They found that, some anti-clockwise eddies existed to the west of 83°E and two clockwise eddies appeared respectively to the north and south of 63°S between 83° and 98°E, and the southward current covered the area to east of 98°E except for a clockwise eddy in shore. Based upon the above data and the ANARE data, Gao et al. (1995b) calculated the geostrophic current near Prydz Bay. They showed that the eastward current was strong (its geostrophic velocity > 0.2 m/s) between 62°S and 63°S but the westward current was slower than 0.1 m/s. They also indicated that the boundary between the eastward and westward currents lay at different locations for different longitudes, i.e., it lay near 66°S at both east-west sides of the bay and moved to the further south nearby the mouth of the bay. Le and Shi  (1997) got almost the same conclusion and thought that the coastal current (Antarctic Coastal Current) was forced mainly by wind and was almost barotropic but the ACC consisted of barotropic and baroclinic components of same order.

The Antarctic Divergence (AD) between ACC and the coastal current has significant interannual variations, which implied that there existed the spatio-temporal variability in the interaction between ACC and Antarctic coastal current (Le et al., 1998). In the region of the CHINARE-7 (68°-108°E) ocean survey, AD lay between 63°30¢S and 66°S and behaved as moving to the further south in the west part and to the further north in the east part (Le and Shi, 1997). Since then, the Continental Water Boundary (CWB) or the Antarctic Slope Front (ASF) was taken as the boundary between ACC and the coastal current by some authors. Although AD was defined in dynamical field and CWB (or ASF) was characterized by the maximum temperature gradient at the subsurface layer, their geographic locations are very close to each other. Yu et al. (1996b; 1998) analyzed the CHINARE-9 data and pointed out that CWB was a front located at the subsurface layer between 64°S and 66°S. Pu et al. (2000a) analyzed the CHINARE-15 data and found that CWB at section 75°E was the strongest and thickest one in the observed area near Prydz Bay. They pointed out that, by comparison with the results obtained from CHINARE-9, the front width of CWB in CHINARE-15 showed more significant variations; its mean strength is weakened and its vertical scale became deeper and thicker.

Numerical simulation is an important means to study ocean circulation, especially in the region of Prydz Bay for lack of in situ current data. Using a 3D diagnostic baroclinic numerical model and the observed wind and T-S data, Shi et al. (1995e) simulated the summertime circulation in the region of Prydz Bay. Their results indicated that the topography was the dominant factor of the circulation and the effect of wind on it was very small. Using a similar model, Sun et al. (1995) simulated the circulation in a larger region near the bay. The results showed that a northward current appeared near 83 °E and a southward current appeared to the east of 98°E. They considered it as a large-scale topographic Rossby standing wave that was formed when ACC met the Kerguelen Plateau. The simulation also showed the importance of topography in shaping the circulation pattern in this region, and indicated that baroclinic effect and wind effect became more important in the shallow shelf area. With a coupled ice-ocean numerical model and monthly-averaged atmospheric forcing data, Shi et al. (2002a;2002b) studied the circulation and its seasonal variation in the region of Prydz Bay. The results indicated that an annual-cycled cyclonic eddy existed in every level in the bay and a continuous westward current whose axis was almost parallel with the slope appeared obviously in shore. The simulated results showed that, topographically-steered by Kerguelen Plateau, ACC turned to the south and reached near 64°S, which is close to the mouth of the bay, and then it turned to the north sharply and became almost northward to the east of the plateau after bypassing the plateau. This simulation indicated that ACC in this region had a quite large non-zonal component, which is quite special in the region of ACC.

 

II.  FRONTS AND ACC IN THE SOUTHERN OCEAN

In the CHINARE cruises to and fro between China and the Antarctica, the T-S data were collected using XBT and XCTD. These data were mainly used for the studies on fronts and ACC in the Southern Ocean. Shi et al. (1995d) analyzed the CHINARE-6 and CHINARE-7 data at the sections between Australia and Antarctica (around 110°E). They found that the frontal characteristics at this section are different from that in the historical data (Japan National Antarctic Research Expedition, JANARE 1979-1987). By comparison with historical data, they found that the surface temperature was 1 to 2 °C higher than the averaged one and the surface salinity north of the Subantarctic Front (SAF) was also larger by at maximum 0.29 than that in the JANARE data. The analysis of the CHINARE-7 data showed that two distinct fronts appeared in the Subtropic Front (STF) and the positions of the SAF and Polar Front (PF) were by south. Shi et al. (1995d) thought that these abnormalties might be related to the large-scale variations of the atmospheric circulation above the South Indian Ocean. Miao et al. (1995a) analyzed the CHINARE-9 XBT data at the section nearby. They also found that the PF position was by south and SAF consisted of two fronts. But these fronts are different from those two years ago. Yu et al. (1996) summarized some features of the interannual variations of fronts at this section during 1979 and 1992. They concluded that, the PF position varied between 50°30¢S and 51°30¢S and its strength changed between 0.08/10km and 0.26°C/10km; the variation of SAF's position was larger (43°52¢49°10¢S) and its strength varied between 0.10/10km and 0.34°C/10 km; STF located between 37° and 40°S but it had two fronts in some years. The CHINARE-9 data included the XBT data along a section  (170°W) between New Zealand and Antarctica. Miao et al. (1995b; 1996) analyzed the temperature fronts at this section and compared them with previous studies. They pointed out that PF and SAF located at 58°30'S and 50°S respectively at this section. Using the temperature data of CHINARE-9 and the mooring data and the current-meter data in Drake Passage, Pu et al. (1996) studied the spatio-temporal variations of fronts and ACC in the passage. Their studies indicated that three strong current cores, locating at SAF, PF and CWB respectively, appeared in the ACC through the passage. Their results also showed that, in the upper layer, the strongest current appeared near SAF with a relatively stable direction and speed; and the current in the lower layer was weaker than the above one and was unstable. Finally, they pointed out that temperature in the high latitude region was more stable, and temporal variation of temperature near PF in the deep layer was greatest. Gao et al. (1995a) discussed the spatial variations of PF using the ANARE and JNARE data. They pointed out that PF located at different positions of different meridional sections, which was affected mainly by the spatial distribution of the land and the ocean. They also noticed and studied a isolated cold-water body existing to the south of PF appearing in the CHINARE and JANARE data.

Most studies of ACC were conducted through theoretical and numerical models. Zhang et al. (1996) set up an ideal model of ACC. In their model, ACC was considered as a wind-induced barotropic zonal current controlled by the linearized potential vorticity equation. Based on geostrophic equilibrium, Dong and Yuan (1996) analyzed the effects of inhomogeneous density field and wind stress on topography steering geostrophic flow. They simulated the circulation in the Southern Ocean using the vertical-integrated kinetic equations with the parameterized pulsating component and the Levitus data. The simulated volume transport through Drake Passage is 232Sv. Their analysis indicated that the effect of inhomogeneous density on ACC was stronger than the effect of wind stress. Using a coupled ice-ocean isopycnal numerical model, Shi et al. (2002) simulated the circulation and the sea ice of the Southern Ocean and their seasonal variations. The simulated annually averaged volume transport through Drake Passage is 145 Sv that was closed to the observed one (134 Sv). The model domain covered the whole Southern Ocean but the emphasis was put on the region around the Kerguelen Plateau. The simulation showed the stripe-like structures and non-zonal features of ACC. The simulated results showed that there were different kinds of patterns appeared in ACC when it passed the northern, southern and middle parts of the plateau; the southernmost branch of ACC was near to the Antarctic coast and displayed its strong interaction with the westward slope current. The simulation presented the temporal variations of ACC in this region with a tendency of annual variations for the ACC branch north of the plateau and a semiannual cycle for the southern branch, which were coincident with that of the wind stress in this region.

 

III.  SEA ICE

The Antarctic Sea Ice Atlas (1973-1989) is the database for most Chinese studies on the Antarctic sea ice. Zou et al. (1996a) extended the collected period of the sea ice database until the end of 1994 by using the remote sensing data (SMMR, SSM/I, 1978-1994). Besides the variation of sea ice itself, the relations between variations of the Antarctic sea ice and the other factors of the climate system, especially the effects of sea ice on the climate of China, were also studied.

1.  Spatio-Temporal Variations

The ice-covered area of Antarctic sea ice showed a great annual cycle with its maximum in September 15.3´106km2and minimum in February 2.3´106km2, so the net sea ice –covered area in winter is 6.5 times as large as that in summer and the averaged freezing period is 7 months and the thawing period is 5 months(Zou et al.,1996a ). In recent years, the Antarctic sea ice-covered area got larger in summer and smaller in the other seasons (Zhao et al., 2001). Besides its annual cycle, a quasi-semiannual cycle is found in the variation of Antarctic sea ice-covered area (Qi and Peng, 1996).

Xie et al. (1996a) studied long-term variations of the Antarctic sea ice by analyzing above data. They found that the sea ice increased quickly in the early 1970s and reached its maximum in the middle 1970s; then it reached its minimum in the late 1970s and the early 1980s. In the whole 1980s, it kept its averaged value or a little lower than that, and in the early 1990s it increased gradually but was still less than that in the early 1970s. Considering the decadal variations of sea level at global typical observation stations, Xie et al. (1998b) considered the decrease of sea ice as a signal of the lobal climate warming. However, Zhou et al. (1999) thought that the change of sea ice couldn't be easily explained by the global greenhouse effect because the climate system is very complicated and there exist some significant regional features in the Antarctic climate change. Zou et al. (1996b) found that the long-term variations of the Antarctic sea ice showed some cyclical characteristics. For instance, the principal period of sea ice in the Indian sectors and the east Pacific sectors of the Southern Ocean is 80 months and 120 months respectively, but a secondary period of 48 months, that is nearly the same as the period of sea surface temperature in the equatorial mid-east Pacific Ocean, could been found in both of these two regions.

The above data are also used to study the sea ice in the region of Prydz Bay. Zhang et al. (1996a) calculated the monthly averaged sea ice extent and its abnormality in the Prydz Bay. They pointed out that the variations of sea ice showed an annual cycle in this region. The field data showed that, in January of each year an ice dam appeared at the mouth of the bay and many huge icebergs and broken icebergs existed in the bay; in February, the ice dam disappeared but the icebergs still existed in the bay. Zhang et al. (2000) simulated the sea ice in the bay by using a one-dimensional thermodynamic model based on the meteorological data measured at the vessel and the Zhongshan Station. The monthly averaged parameters of sea ice were simulated and agreed quite well with that from the observed data.

Shi et al. (1995b) analyzed the spatial distribution of sea ice in the Southern Ocean and its relevant dynamical mechanism on the basis of the RES-1 satellite images in 1992-1993. They pointed out that there were three widest areas of the sea ice extent in the north-south direction: the Weddell Sea, the Ross Sea and the Prydz Bay. They found that the north edge of sea ice was around the isotherm of -1°C. Based on the same data and applying a 2-dimensional non-linear ocean model, Shi et al. (1995c) studied the dynamical mechanism of the Weddell Polynya formation. They described the following process to explain the Polynya formation. At the beginning,a cyclone near AD caused the divergence of the colder and fresher water in the surface layer and the upwelling of warmer and saline water below it ;at the same time, the sea ice was driven from the center toward the margin by the divergent current; in this case the sea ice could not be formed at the center being of the higher temperature and higher salinity water and it had to be accumulated at the margin, where a polynya was formed. They viewed the Katabatic wind as another main reason of the Polynya formation and thought that the key months forming the polynya were June and July.

2.  Relations between Antarctic Sea Ice and Other Factors of the Climate Sytem

Based on the historical sea ice data (1973-1989), Xie et al. (1995) studied the relation between sea ices in the Arctic and the Antarctic. The statistical analysis showed that the Atlantic Arctic, the Weddell Sea and the Ross Sea were the key regions of the variations of sea ice in the both poles. They took the relationships among the sea ice variations in the three regions as an meridional-zonal oscillation, which coulde be comparable to the Southern Oscillation and the Northern Oscillation in the atmosphere in the significance, correlativity and duration of correlation. Xie et al. (1998a) also found that Arctic sea ice is the dominant factor in the interaction between the Antarctic and the Arctic sea ices, and the anomalous variability of the Arctic sea ice would affect the subsequent variation of the Antarctic sea ice.

Xie et al. (1996b) studied the interaction between the Antarctic sea ice-covered area and the ENSO event by the statistical correlation analysis. The result showed that there was a connection between the ENSO event and the sea ice-covered area variation in the Ross Sea, i.e. the positive and negative feedbacks appeared between them at an equivalent intensity. They found that there existed an oscillation with the strong negative correlations between the SSTA in the equatorial mid Pacific Ocean and the Antarctic sea ice. They looked upon this oscillation as a strong oceanic oscillation existing between the northern and southern sides of the South Pacific Ocean, whose strength and duration can be comparable to that of the Southern Oscillation in the atmosphere. They named this oscillation as the Southern Oceanic Oscillation (SOC). Chen et al. (1998) analyzed the variations of the sea ice-covered area at each meridional zone and their relations with the SST in the equatorial Pacific Ocean. The further researches (Chen, 1999; Chen and Qin, 2000) showed that the SST variation in the tropical western Pacific and the tropical Indian Oceans had a close relation to the Antarctic sea ice area, especially to the sea ice area in the region of the eastern Antarctica and Ross Sea, which also indicated that the variations of Antarctic sea ice-covered area had a close relation to the ENSO event.

Through the lag correlation analysis of the monthly Antarctic and Arctic sea ice areas and the characteristic parameters of atmospheric circulation at 500 hPa level, Peng et al. (1996a; b) discussed the relationships between the polar sea ice and the global atmospheric circulation, especially the atmospheric circulation in the Northern Hemisphere. They pointed out that the subtropical high played a key role in the impact of the polar sea ice on the atmospheric circulation. Qian et al. (1996) discussed the influence of the polar sea ice on the meridional heat transport in the atmosphere by an analysis of the difference of the heat transport appearing when the polar sea ice anormally increased or decreased. The results indicated that the increase of Antarctic sea ice area could enhance the meridional heat exchange and would affect the heat exchange between the Northern and Southern Hemispheres, by which the atmospheric circulation responding to the variation of sea ice kept the energy balance of ocean-air system. The simulated results by Chen et al. (1996) indicated that the variations of the Antarctic sea ice caused a wave train cross the northern and Southern Hemispheres and affected the global atmospheric circulation. The Other simulated results (Chen and Miao, 1996; Miao and Chen, 1996) showed that the variations of the ice cover and the sea temperature in the Southern Ocean influenced the atmospheric circulation in the southern hemisphere greatly and the variations of the Antarctic sea ice could result in a zonal wave train in the middle and low latitudes in the north hemisphere, which influenced the monsoon circulation and weather in the east Asia. By numerical experiments, Zheng et al. (1999) found that, when the Antarctic sea ice was excessive, the feature of atmospheric circulation in the East Asia would tend to display its wintertime pattern, which would not be in favor of the seasonal transform of circulation in the early summer; when the Antarctic sea ice became less, the situation would be reversed.

Based on the Antarctic sea ice data and the China precipitation data from between 1973 to 1986, Li et al. (1996) analyzed the correlation between the Antarctic sea ice and the China precipitation in flood season. The results showed that, there existed several key regions of the Southern Ocean, affecting the China precipitation during the flood season and the precipitation in most areas of the East China during the flood season was well related to the Antarctic sea ice variations from January until July. Li and Peng (1996) provided such a possible process of the above links that the response of the atmospheric long wave in the Southern Hemisphere to the Antarctic sea ice anomalities causes the abnormal action of cold air above Australia and the south Indian Ocean and then induces the variations of the cross-equator current in the atmosphere, the Equator Convergence and the Hadley Cell. Finally, all these variations make such a background of heavy rain in the East China in the flood season changed as the circulation background (planetary scale longwave system), the weather system and the vapor channel. Liu and Bian(1999) also investigated the relationship between the polar sea ice anomalities and the precipitation and temperature anomalities over China. Their analyses showed that there existed some key areas of the polar sea ice which are highly related to the precipitation and temperature over China.

 

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