The far field effect of ice shelf calving: the oceanographic effect of the decay of large tabular icebergs at South Georgia

Brandon, M. A.; Enderlien, P. and Murphy, E.J. (2010). The far field effect of ice shelf calving: the oceanographic effect of the decay of large tabular icebergs at South Georgia. In: Abstract C23C-0648 presented at AGU Fall Meeting, 13-17 Dec 2010, San Francisco, CA, USA.

Abstract

South Georgia is a small island approximately 190 x 30 km within the Antarctic Circumpolar Current in the South Atlantic. It is surrounded by a continental shelf which extends typically more than 50 km from the coast and has an average depth ~200 m, although there are deeper submarine canyons. It is downstream of the Antarctic Peninsula and satellite observations have frequently shown that very large tabular icebergs which originate in the Bellingshausen and Weddell Seas, for example B10A, A22B and A38, reach the island. Once there they ground on the relatively wide and extensive shelf. Occasionally they can pass the island and continue their drift and decay in the open ocean of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current however, for many, such as A38 (~300 Gt), the region around the island is effectively the graveyard. When this happens potentially very large volumes of meteoric water are deposited onto the shelf of the island and there are consequent large effects on the regional hydrography. The island has been for many decades a long term study site for cross disciplinary work and from 2002-2006 two oceanographic moorings recorded physical parameters including temperature, salinity and water velocity in the region. This time period encompasses the period of A38’s demise. The effects of the melt water addition are clear in the regional situation and here we present melt rate calculations from both tidal forcing and background hydrography on the tabular icebergs, and consequent impacts of the significant freshwater addition at this isolated site.

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