The ocean freshwater balance of the Antarctic shelves is currently changing, at least partly in response to the surging and melting of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS). The most dramatic thinning of the WAIS has been recorded in several glaciers feeding the ice shelves in the Amundsen Sea. Understanding the ocean circulation in this area is central to our ability to predict the behaviour of the WAIS, the melting of which can in turn affect the global sea level.

The Amundsen Sea remains one of the least sampled and understood of the circum-Antarctic marginal seas. The present project will use in situ measurements, remote sensing, and models to study the physical oceanography of the Amundsen Sea Shelf, and the subsurface melting of icebergs and ice shelves that the ocean circulation includes.

The specific goals are:

  • to identify the forcing mechanisms behind the flow of Circumpolar Deep Water (CDW) onto the shelf,
  • to characterize the time variability and trends in the CDW flow, and compare these with the growth rates of the glaciers draining in the region,
  • to assess the iceberg melt rate in the Amundsen Shelf region, and how this melt affects the ocean circulation in the area.

Principal investigator

Anna Wåhlin
Department of Earth Sciences, University of Gothenburg