Oceanography The Official Magazine of
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Volume 29 Issue 04

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Volume 29, No. 4
Pages 96 - 105


Temporal Changes in the Antarctic Circumpolar Current: Implications for the Antarctic Continental Shelves

By Sarah T. Gille , Darren C. McKee, and Douglas G. Martinson 
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Article Abstract

Some of the most rapid melting of ice sheets and ice shelves around Antarctica has occurred where the Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC) is in close proximity to the Antarctic continent. Several mechanisms have been hypothesized by which warming trends in the ACC could lead to warmer temperatures on the Antarctic continental shelves and corresponding thinning of ice shelves. One possibility is that a southward shift in the dominant westerly winds has led to a southward shift in the ACC, bringing comparatively warm (1°C–3°C) Circumpolar Deep Water (CDW) in closer contact with Antarctica; however, satellite altimetry does not provide strong evidence for this option. A second possibility is that stronger winds have led to stronger poleward eddy heat transport, bringing more CDW southward. In addition, submarine canyons and winds are hypothesized to be critical for transporting CDW across the continental shelves. The specific mechanisms and the relative roles of westerly winds, easterly winds, and wind-stress curl remain areas of active research.


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