26 Jan 2023
 | 26 Jan 2023

Improving Antarctic Bottom Water precursors in NEMO for climate applications

Katherine Hutchinson, Julie Deshayes, Christian Éthé, Clément Rousset, Casimir de Lavergne, Martin Vancoppenolle, Nicolas C. Jourdain, and Pierre Mathiot

Abstract. The world’s largest ice shelves are found in the Antarctic Weddell and Ross Seas where complex interactions between the atmosphere, sea ice, ice shelves and ocean transform shelf waters into High Salinity Shelf Water (HSSW) and Ice Shelf Water (ISW), the parent waters of Antarctic Bottom Water (AABW). This process feeds the lower limb of the global overturning circulation as AABW, the world’s densest and deepest water-mass, spreads outwards from Antarctica. None of the coupled climate models contributing to CMIP6 directly simulated ocean-ice shelf interactions, thereby omitting a potentially critical piece of the climate puzzle. As a first step towards better representing these processes in a global ocean model, we run a 1° resolution forced configuration of NEMO (eORCA1) to explicitly simulate circulation beneath Filchner-Ronne (FRIS), Larsen C (LCIS), and Ross (RIS) ice shelves. These locations are thought to supply the majority of the source waters for AABW and so melt in all other cavities is provisionally prescribed. Results show that the grid resolution of 1° is sufficient to produce melt rate patterns and net melt rates of FRIS (117 ± 21 Gt/yr), LCIS (36 + 7 Gt/yr) and RIS (112 + 22 Gt/yr) that agree well with both high resolution models and satellite measurements. Most notably, allowing sub-ice shelf circulation reduces salinity biases (0.1 psu), produces the previously unresolved water mass ISW, and re-organises the shelf circulation to bring the regional model hydrography closer to observations. A change in AABW within the Weddell and Ross Seas towards colder, fresher values is identified but the magnitude is limited by the absence of a realistic overflow. This study presents a NEMO configuration that can be used for climate applications with improved realism of the Antarctic continental shelf circulation and a better representation of the precursors of AABW.

Katherine Hutchinson et al.

Status: final response (author comments only)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Review of egusphere-2023-99', Xylar Asay-Davis, 07 Mar 2023
  • RC2: 'Reviewer comment on egusphere-2023-99', Anonymous Referee #2, 11 Mar 2023

Katherine Hutchinson et al.

Katherine Hutchinson et al.


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Short summary
Bottom Water constitutes the lower limb of the ocean’s overturning system and is primarily formed in the Antarctic Weddell and Ross Seas due to interactions between the atmosphere, ocean, sea ice and ice shelves. Here we use a global ocean 1° resolution model with the three large ice shelves important for the formation of the parent waters of Bottom Water explicitly represented and find doing so reduces salinity biases, improves water mass realism, and gives realistic ice shelf melt rates.