Journal: Geophysical Research Letters
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Wind stirs the water around Antarctica
© Ray Hems/Getty
Passing storms briefly blow away density differences in the surface waters of Antarctica.
Antarctica’s ice marginal zone, where coastal ice melts and freezes, covers 18 million square kilometres, yet little is known about small-scale ocean surface processes in this region, such as eddies that are 1–10 kilometres wide and that distribute heat and nutrients.
Over three summer months, a team that included researchers from the University of Cape Town used a wind-propelled, solar-powered floating weather station and a remote-controlled diving sensor to continuously monitor the effect of surface winds on water temperature and density at different depths.
During high winds, the eddies become more energetic and the density gradients that were created by freshwater flowing in from melting ice temporarily vanish.
Such agile and robust seafaring robots promise to improve studies of local atmospheric and ocean processes that could affect global ecosystems and climate.
- Geophysical Research Letters 47, e2019GL086649 (2020). doi: 10.1029/2019GL086649