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Spatial variation in seabed temperatures in the Southern Ocean: implications for benthic ecology and biogeography

By Andrew Clarke, Huw J. Griffiths, David K.A. Barnes, Michael P. Meredith and Susie M. Grant


The Antarctic seabed has traditionally been regarded as cold and thermally stable, with little spatial or seasonal variation in temperature. Here we demonstrate marked spatial variations in continental shelf seabed temperature around Antarctica, with the western Antarctic Peninsula shelf significantly warmer than shelves around continental Antarctica as a result of flooding of the shelf by Circumpolar Deep Water from the Antarctic Circumpolar Current. The coldest shelf seabed temperatures are in the Weddell Sea, Ross Sea, and Prydz Bay as a consequence of seasonal convection associated with strong air-sea heat fluxes and sea-ice formation. These waters constitute the dense precursors of Antarctic Bottom Water, and can descend down the adjacent slope to inject cold water into the Southern Ocean deep sea. Deep sea seabed temperatures are coldest in the Weddell Sea and are progressively warmer to the east. There is a distinct latitudinal gradient in the difference between seabed temperatures on the shelf and in the deep sea, with the deep sea warmer by up to similar to 2 K at high latitudes and colder by similar to 2 K around sub-Antarctic islands. These differences have important consequences for benthic ecology and biogeography, understanding the evolutionary history of the Antarctic marine biota, and the impact of regional climate change

Topics: Marine Sciences, Meteorology and Climatology, Ecology and Environment
Publisher: American Geophysical Union
Year: 2009
DOI identifier: 10.1029/2008JG000886
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