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Observations of turbulence beneath sea ice in southern McMurdo Sound, Antarctica

By C. L. Stevens, N. J. Robinson, M. J. M. Williams and T. G. Haskell


The first turbulence profiler observations beneath land fast sea ice which is directly adjacent to an Antarctic ice shelf are described. The stratification in the 325 m deep water column consisted of a layer of supercooled water in the upper 40 m lying above a quasi-linearly stratified water column with a sharp step in density at mid-depth. Turbulent energy dissipation rates were on average 3×10<sup>−8</sup> m<sup>2</sup> s<sup>−3</sup> with peak bin-averaged values reaching 4×10<sup>−7</sup> m<sup>2</sup> s<sup>−3</sup>. The local dissipation rate per unit area was estimated to be 10 m Wm<sup>−2</sup> on average with a peak of 50 m Wm<sup>−2</sup>. These values are consistent with a moderate baroclinic response to the tides. The small-scale turbulent energetics lie on the boundary between isotropy and buoyancy-affected. This will likely influence the formation and aggregation of frazil ice crystals within the supercooled layer. The data suggest that the large crystals observed in McMurdo Sound will transition from initial growth at scales smaller than the Kolmogorov lengthscale to sizes substantially (1–2 orders of magnitude) greater than the Kolmogorov scale. An estimate of the experiment-averaged vertical diffusivity of mass <i>K</i>ρ</sub> yields a coefficient of around 2×10<sup>−4</sup> m<sup>2</sup>s<sup>−1</sup> although this increased by a factor of 2 near the surface. Combining this estimate of <i>K</i>ρ</sub> with available observations of average and maximum currents suggests the layer of supercooled water can persist for a distance of ~250 km from the front of the McMurdo Ice Shelf

Topics: Oceanography, GC1-1581, Geography. Anthropology. Recreation, G, DOAJ:Oceanography, DOAJ:Earth and Environmental Sciences, Environmental sciences, GE1-350
Publisher: Copernicus Publications
Year: 2009
OAI identifier: oai:doaj.org/article:053f9704670e4551aeddafc35900fd6a
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