Variability of the coastal Antarctic climate derived from fast-ice observations.
Metadata record for data from ASAC Project 2500
See the link below for public details on this project.
Weekly fast-ice and snow thicknesses from an ongoing long-term time-series together with meteorological data will be used to analyse ice-atmosphere interactions. Interannual changes will be related to climate effects. Various sites at each location will be sampled to resolve the ... influence of oceanic forcing on the fast-ice growth.
Landfast sea ice (fast ice) forms on the near-coastal ocean off each of the three Australian Antarctic stations each autumn. At Mawson and Davis stations this ice cover is generally stable, increasing in thickness throughout the winter to reach its maximum thickness in October or November before decaying and eventually breaking out in late spring or summer [Heil and Allison, 2002a]. At Casey, the third Australian station, the fast-ice cover is very unstable and not suitable for the study proposed here. The fast ice at the proposed measuring sites is stationary all through the austral winter.
There is no contribution due to mechanical processes (rafting or ridging) on the thickness evolution of the fast ice at the measuring sites [Heil, 2001]. Its growth and decay, and the annual maximum thickness depend primarily on thermodynamic processes [Heil et al., 1996], which are forced by energy and moisture exchanges at the atmosphere-ice interface, the thickness of the snow cover, and the thermal energy supplied to the underside of the ice from the ocean.
Starting in the mid 1950s measurements of the fast-ice thickness and snow cover are available for individual years at Mawson and Davis stations. After quality control the combined record for Mawson includes data from 27 seasons; the Davis record includes 20 seasons [Heil and Allison, 2002a]. However, significant gaps exist in these historic records. The scientific value of a continuous record of fast-ice thickness as a climatic indicator has been recognised and as a consequence the fast-ice and snow measurements at Davis and Mawson have been accepted into the State of the Environment (SOE) reporting scheme by the Australian Antarctic Division.
Data from ANARE fast-ice measurements have been included in scientific research (e.g., Mellor , Allison , Heil et al. , or Heil and Allison [2002a]). For example, Heil et al.  designed an inverse 1-dimensional thermodynamic sea-ice model and used historic fast-ice data from Mawson together with meteorological observations to derive the seasonal and interannual variability of the oceanic heat flux at the underside of the fast ice. They showed that the interannual variability identified from the fast-ice data was in agreement with changes in the water-mass properties observed upstream of the fast-ice site.
Using the historic data together with data from ongoing measurements this project aims to quantify the local-scale interactions between atmosphere and fast ice, to derive the relative impact of oceanic forcing on the fast-ice evolution, to estimate the small-scale spatial variability of the fast-ice growth, and to explore the connection between fast-ice changes and climate change.
In particular we aim:
- to extend previous analysis from records of fast-ice observations for Mawson and Davis stations;
- to exactly determine the growth-melt cycle of East Antarctic fast ice and its modifications due to changing environmental conditions;
- to derive the statistical variability of the fast-ice evolution relative to atmospheric and oceanic forcing;
- to evaluate the suitability of fast ice as indicator of changes in the Antarctic environment;
- to determine the spatial coherence of fast-ice properties.
Contribution of this research to achieving the relevant milestones contained in the Strategic Plan:
- Contributions to Key Scientific Output 3:
This research aims to derive an assessment of the links between fast-ice variability and Southern Hemisphere environmental conditions from in-situ observations. The annual maximum ice thickness, and the date at which this maximum thickness is reached, reflect the integrated conditions of the local atmospheric and oceanic parameters [Heil, in prep.]. The fast-ice measurements together with concurrent meteorological (and oceanic) observations will allow us to study the direct links of variability in the sea-ice thermodynamics to changes in the Southern Hemisphere atmospheric conditions ("weather" in KSO 3.1). This knowledge will aid our understanding of the interannual and long-term variability of the drifting sea ice, as it will allow us to separate thermodynamic effects from dynamic effects [Heil et al., 1998].
Research outcomes from this study will aid the parameterisation of thermodynamic sea-ice processes in coupled climate models, and will provide an outlook towards statistical parameterisation of fast-ice characteristics within numerical models.
- Contributions to Key Scientific Output 4:
Using historic data and ongoing measurements this project seeks to build an accurate and ongoing record of measurements of fast-ice and snow properties for the monitoring and detection of change in Antarctic and Southern Ocean climate. Changes identified in the fast-ice thickness or in the occurrence of the annual maximum ice thickness are due to changes in either oceanic or atmospheric heat and/or moisture transfer. Using fast-ice measurements from locations around the Antarctic continent in combination with large-scale atmospheric (and oceanic) data the external impact on the sea ice can be extrapolated.
Historic climatologies of interannual variability will be updated and extended. These climatologies will be available to expedition operations, scientific research, etc.
* Completion of field work/primary scientific activity:
The requirements of data collection for this project are in line with indicator No. 43 "Fast ice thickness at Davis and Mawson" of the State of the Environment (SOE) reporting scheme. Weekly measurements of fast-ice and snow thicknesses are required for the SOE scheme as well as for this project. Additional data on the freeboard of the ice are easily and quickly obtained during the standard measurements [Heil and Allison, 2002b].
It is worthwhile to emphasise the requirement of a long-term commitment for the field measurements in order to obtain meaningful and statistically significant records of fast-ice observations.
* Completion of analysis:
The evaluation of individual growth-decay seasons will be undertaken once all fast-ice data as well as all required auxiliary data (mainly meteorological measurements) are available to the CI. Where available, opportunistic oceanographic data will be acquired as part of related research projects. Analysis to assess the interaction between fast ice, atmosphere and ocean will be carried out for each growth-decay season. This will include numerical modelling of the thermodynamic processes in fast-ice growth and decay. For years, when measurements of all external forcing fields (oceanic and atmospheric) have been collected, the parameterisations of the thermodynamic model can be evaluated by comparing the model results with the observed fast-ice thickness and growth rates. Following Heil et al.  the thermodynamic model can be reconfigured for use in the inverse mode, using atmospheric and fast-ice data to calculate the oceanic heat flux at the underside of the ice. Long-term records of changes in the oceanic heat flux are not available and this inverse method (driven with data derived from meteorological and fast-ice measurements) will be able to contribute to our understanding of coastal oceanography by using several measuring sites within a small area.
Analysis of the interannual variability of the fast ice and its response to changing environmental conditions will be carried out on the long-term data record. The data will be analysed for long-term signals, and will be evaluated for their statistical significance.
* Publication of results:
Scientific findings will be written up and submitted for publication as they arise. Publications in high-impact international journals are expected about every 2 years.
Download point for the data
Values provided in temporal and spatial coverage are approximate only.
Taken from the 2008-2009 Progress Report:
Variations to work plan or objectives:
During 2009 a new instrument, developed by AAD STS and the investigator required testing. This stress-gauge buoy was ... originally designed for deployment in the pack ice during the SIPEX (AAS2901) or the 2009 autumn (AAS3012) experiment. However, due to an over-subscription of STS prior to SIPEX and the unavailability of the autumn 2009 cruise, it was decided to deploy one stress-gauge buoy on the Davis fast ice so it could be tested in situ.
Seven fast-ice sites have been occupied during austral winter of 2008, these are at the same geographical locations as in previous years. Fast-ice observations of the 2008 winter ceased in December 2008. By March 2009 measurements for the 2009 had been initiated. Due to repeated breakout of the fast ice in or near Davis Harbour no instrumentation has has yet been deployed in the 2009 season.
Four fast-ice sites have been occupied during austral winter of 2008, and the same sites have been initiated for the 2009 observations in late March 2009.
Locations for in situ observations at both stations are unchanged from previous reports. At Davis Station the AFIN mass-balance station, a stress-gauge buoy and a tilt-meter buoy will be deployed near site Ice2.
So far, the field work is progressing well, although weather dependent.
1 fast-ice cores from site Ice2 near Davis Station.
1 fast-ice cores from site Mawson Harbour.
Both cores have been analysed for crystal stratigraphy and salinity.
Sampling for DeltaO18 isotopes is scheduled for first half of 2009.
Difficulties affecting project:
Limited access to fast-ice sites early and late in the season.
FYI: Early season observations would provide crucial data for modelling the growth of Antarctic fast ice, but are not allowed due to AAD HQ rules on access to the fast ice.
The data are currently not publicly available.
Data Set Progress
+61 3 6226 7646
+61 3 6226 7650
petra.heil at utas.edu.au
GPO Box 252 - 80
University of Tasmania
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