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Collaborative Research: Pathways of Circumpolar Deep Water to West Antarctica from Profiling Float and Satellite Measurements

Current oceanographic interest in the interaction of relatively warm water of the Southern Ocean Circumpolar Deep Water (CDW) as it moves southward to the frigid waters of the Antarctic continental shelves is based on the potential importance of heat transport from the global ocean to the base of continental ice shelves. This is needed to understand the longer term mass balance of the continent, the stability of the vast Antarctic ice sheets and the rate at which sea-level will rise in a warming world. Improved observational knowledge of the mechanisms of how warming CDW moves across the Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC) is needed. Understanding this dynamical transport, believed to take place through the eddy flux of time-varying mesoscale circulation features, will improve coupled ocean-atmospheric climate models. The development of the next generation of coupled ocean-ice-climate models help us understand future changes in atmospheric heat fluxes, glacial and sea-ice balance, and changes in the Antarctic ecosystems. A recurring obstacle to our understanding is the lack of data in this distant region. In this project, a total of 10 subsurface profiling EM-APEX floats adapted to operate under sea ice were launched in 12 missions (and 2 recoveries) from 4 cruises of opportunity to the Amundsen Sea sector of the Antarctic continental margin during Austral summer. The floats were launched south of the Polar Front and measured shear, turbulence, temperature, and salinity to 2000m depth for 1-2 year missions while drifting with the CDW layer between profiles.

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