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Katabatic winds and polynya dynamics at Coats Land, Antarctica

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  26 November 2013

Lars Ebner*
University of Trier, Department of Environmental Meteorology, Behringstrasse 21, 54286 Trier, Germany
Günther Heinemann
University of Trier, Department of Environmental Meteorology, Behringstrasse 21, 54286 Trier, Germany
Verena Haid
Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research, Climate Dynamics, Bussestrasse 24, 27570 Bremerhaven, Germany
Ralph Timmermann
Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research, Climate Dynamics, Bussestrasse 24, 27570 Bremerhaven, Germany


Mesoscale model simulations were conducted for the Weddell Sea region for the autumn and winter periods of 2008 using a high-resolution, limited-area, non-hydrostatic atmospheric model. A sea ice–ocean model was run with enhanced horizontal resolution and high-resolution forcing data of the atmospheric model. Daily passive thermal and microwave satellite data was used to derive the polynya area in the Weddell Sea region. The focus of the study is on the formation of polynyas in the coastal region of Coats Land, which is strongly affected by katabatic flows. The polynya areas deduced from two independent remote sensing methods and data sources show good agreement, while the results of the sea ice simulation show some weaknesses. Linkages between the pressure gradient force composed of a katabatic and a synoptic component, offshore wind regimes and polynya area are identified. It is shown that the downslope surface offshore wind component of Coats Land is the main forcing factor for polynya dynamics, which is mainly steered by the offshore pressure gradient force, where the katabatic force is the dominant term. We find that the synoptic pressure gradient is opposed to the katabatic force during major katabatic wind events.

Physical Sciences
Copyright © Antarctic Science Ltd 2013 

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