Characterization of the Antarctic Polar Frontal Zone to the north of South Georgia in summer 1994

Trathan, P. N.; Brandon, M. A. and Murphy, E. J. (1997). Characterization of the Antarctic Polar Frontal Zone to the north of South Georgia in summer 1994. Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans, 102(C5) pp. 10483–10497.




The Polar Front (PF) forms the southern boundary to the Polar Frontal Zone (PFZ) along the northern edge of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC). In a number of areas the position of the PF (and thus the PFZ) is known to be influenced by topographic steering, while local bathymetry has also been implicated in the movement and retention of various associated mesoscale features. In this paper we examine the structure and position of the PF as it passes over the rugged bathymetry to the north of the Scotia Sea. Results are presented from an oceanographic transect crossing the PF to the northwest of South Georgia and from a pair of shorter transects south of the PF but north and east of the first. Associated with the PF was a narrow, high-speed flow embedded in broader, slower moving regions. This high-speed flow was found to have a geostrophic component of velocity that was slower than estimates for other regions of the PF. Comparisons with output from recent oceanographic models were found to be consistent with the physical observations. A second examination of the region after a period of 30 days suggested that the surface expression of the PF had shifted southward by approximately 35 km but that the PF was essentially in the same position over the southern edge of the Maurice Ewing Bank. An advanced very high resolution radiometer image taken during the cruise provided additional information about the position of the surface expression of the PF and the extent of mesoscale features that were present to the north of the study area. Immediately to the north of South Georgia, water in the eastward flow of the ACC meets colder, more saline water flowing west along the north coast of the island. The area where these two flows meet was found to be variable over the 30-day timescale of the cruise. This area is known to be of major biological significance, and variability in the local oceanography is possibly of crucial importance to many predator species breeding at the northern end of South Georgia.

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