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Satellite tracking of icebergs in the Weddell Sea

  • R. GLADSTONE (a1) and G.R. BIGG (a1)

Abstract

Small to medium sized icebergs (200 m to 10 km across) in two areas of the Weddell Sea were tracked using satellite-borne Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) from 22 January–21 February 1994 and 29 January–25 February 1992 respectively. The westward mass flux of icebergs in the Antarctic Coastal Current was estimated at the eastern entrance to the Weddell Sea as being 50–70 Gta−1. A large contrast was found between observations over the narrow shelf here and the off-shelf area. The latter region had very much reduced iceberg density, and the bergs moved with slower and less coherent velocities compared with the fast, but narrow (10–20 km wide) flow in the Coastal Current. This region is a promising site for the monitoring of decadal trends in iceberg fluxes. The second study area in the south-western Weddell Sea showed iceberg motion consistent with non-contemporaneous observations of tagged icebergs, with steady flow parallel to the shelf-ice edge, at significantly lower densities and speeds than in the Coastal Current but almost double that observed off-shelf in the eastern Weddell Sea. We also suggest that shipboard observations of icebergs need careful analysis to avoid their over-estimating true iceberg concentrations by a substantial amount.

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