Foehn winds link climate-driven warming to ice shelf evolution in Antarctica

TitleFoehn winds link climate-driven warming to ice shelf evolution in Antarctica
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2015
AuthorsCape M.R, Vernet M, Skvarca P, Marinsek S, Scambos T, Domack E
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres
Date Published2015/11
ISBN Number2169-8996
Keywords1616 Climate variability; 1621 Cryospheric change; 1637 Regional climate change; 3322 Land/atmosphere interactions; 3329 Mesoscale meteorology; antarctica; climate; foehn; föhn; Larsen Ice Shelf; Southern Annular mode

Rapid warming of the Antarctic Peninsula over the past several decades has led to extensive surface melting on its eastern side, and the disintegration of the Prince Gustav, Larsen A, and Larsen B ice shelves. The warming trend has been attributed to strengthening of circumpolar westerlies resulting from a positive trend in the Southern Annular Mode (SAM), which is thought to promote more frequent warm, dry, downsloping foehn winds along the lee, or eastern side, of the peninsula. We examined variability in foehn frequency and its relationship to temperature and patterns of synoptic-scale circulation using a multidecadal meteorological record from the Argentine station Matienzo, located between the Larsen A and B embayments. This record was further augmented with a network of six weather stations installed under the U.S. NSF LARsen Ice Shelf System, Antarctica, project. Significant warming was observed in all seasons at Matienzo, with the largest seasonal increase occurring in austral winter (+3.71°C between 1962–1972 and 1999–2010). Frequency and duration of foehn events were found to strongly influence regional temperature variability over hourly to seasonal time scales. Surface temperature and foehn winds were also sensitive to climate variability, with both variables exhibiting strong, positive correlations with the SAM index. Concomitant positive trends in foehn frequency, temperature, and SAM are present during austral summer, with sustained foehn events consistently associated with surface melting across the ice sheet and ice shelves. These observations support the notion that increased foehn frequency played a critical role in precipitating the collapse of the Larsen B ice shelf.

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