Publications

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2015
Cape, MR, Vernet M, Skvarca P, Marinsek S, Scambos T, Domack E.  2015.  Foehn winds link climate-driven warming to ice shelf evolution in Antarctica. Journal of Geophysical Research-Atmospheres. 120(21):11037-11057.   10.1002/2015JD023465   Abstract

Rapid warming of the Antarctic Peninsula over the past several decades has led to extensive surface melting on its eastern side, and the disintegration of the Prince Gustav, Larsen A, and Larsen B ice shelves. The warming trend has been attributed to strengthening of circumpolar westerlies resulting from a positive trend in the Southern Annular Mode (SAM), which is thought to promote more frequent warm, dry, downsloping foehn winds along the lee, or eastern side, of the peninsula. We examined variability in foehn frequency and its relationship to temperature and patterns of synoptic-scale circulation using a multidecadal meteorological record from the Argentine station Matienzo, located between the Larsen A and B embayments. This record was further augmented with a network of six weather stations installed under the U.S. NSF LARsen Ice Shelf System, Antarctica, project. Significant warming was observed in all seasons at Matienzo, with the largest seasonal increase occurring in austral winter (+3.71 degrees C between 1962-1972 and 1999-2010). Frequency and duration of foehn events were found to strongly influence regional temperature variability over hourly to seasonal time scales. Surface temperature and foehn winds were also sensitive to climate variability, with both variables exhibiting strong, positive correlations with the SAM index. Concomitant positive trends in foehn frequency, temperature, and SAM are present during austral summer, with sustained foehn events consistently associated with surface melting across the ice sheet and ice shelves. These observations support the notion that increased foehn frequency played a critical role in precipitating the collapse of the Larsen B ice shelf.

2014
Cape, MR, Vernet M, Kahru M, Spreen G.  2014.  Polynya dynamics drive primary production in the Larsen A and B embayments following ice shelf collapse. Journal of Geophysical Research-Oceans. 119:572-594.   10.1002/2013jc009441   AbstractWebsite

The climate-driven collapses of the Larsen A and B ice shelves have opened up new regions of the coastal Antarctic to the influence of sea ice resulting in increases in seasonal primary production. In this study, passive microwave remote sensing of sea ice concentration and satellite imagery of ocean color are employed to quantify the magnitude of and variability in open water area and net primary productivity (NPP) in the Larsen embayments between 1997 and 2011. Numerical model output provides context to analyze atmospheric forcing on the coastal ocean. Following ice shelf disintegration the embayments function as coastal, sensible heat polynyas. The Larsen A and B are as productive as other Antarctic shelf regions, with seasonally averaged daily NPP rates reaching 1232 and 1127 mg C m(-2) d(-1) and annual rates reaching 200 and 184 g C m(-2) yr(-1), respectively. A persistent cross-shelf gradient in NPP is present with higher productivity rates offshore, contrasting with patterns observed along the West Antarctic Peninsula. Embayment productivity is intimately tied to sea ice dynamics, with large interannual variability in NPP rates driven by open water area and the timing of embayment opening. Opening of the embayment is linked to periods of positive Southern Annular Mode and stronger westerlies, which lead to the vertical deflection of warm, maritime air over the peninsula and down the leeward side causing increases in surface air temperature and wind velocity. High productivity in these new polynyas is likely to have ramifications for organic matter export and marine ecosystem evolution. Key Points Primary production and sea ice dynamics after ice shelf disintegration Larsen embayments function as productive coastal sensible heat polynyas High sea ice interannual variability affects total production