26 Sep 2022
26 Sep 2022
Status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal TC.

The stable water isotopes and snow accumulation from Weddell Sea sector imprint the large-scale atmospheric circulation variability

Andressa Marcher1, Jefferson Cardia Simões1,2, Ronaldo Torma Bernardo1, Francisco Eliseu Aquino1, Isaías Ullmann Thoen1, Pedro Teixeira Valente1, and Venisse Schossler1 Andressa Marcher et al.
  • 1Centro Polar e Climático, Instituto de Geociências, Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul. Av. Bento Gonçalves, 9500, CEP 91.540-000, Porto Alegre, RS, Brazil
  • 2Climate Change Institute, University of Maine, Orono, ME 04469-5790, USA

Abstract. Stable water isotopes and accumulation data extracted from polar ice/firn cores provide valuable climate information. Here, we present novel isotopic and accumulation time series from an upstream area of the Möller Ice Stream (MIS) basin, Weddell Sea Sector (WSS), Antarctica – a Brazilian research area (84°00’00’’S; 79°29’39’’W; 1276 m a.s.l.). Our purpose was to understand the depositional history and investigate how much the recent climate signal (21st century) is stored in the shallowest ice sheet layers in this area. Therefore, we crossed the isotopic (δ18O, δD, and d-excess) and snow accumulation data of two shallow firn cores (both ⁓9.0 m deep) with glaciological information, local and regional meteorological data (both ERA5 and AWS), indices of large-scale atmospheric modes (as SAM and ENSO) and the Amundsen Sea Low (ASL). The isotopic records cover 16 years (from 1999 to 2015-austral summer) and the accumulation records cover 20 years (from 1999 to 2018). We find that interannual δs variability is strongly explained by changes in the phase of the SAM (r = 0.74; p < 0.05; α = 0.05) and, consequently, also by changes in pressure of both the WSS (r = -0.57; p < 0.05; α = 0.05) and the ASL (r = -0.56; p < 0.05; α = 0.05). The regional temperature in WSS (r = 0.50; p < 0.05; α = 0.05) and Antarctica Peninsula (r = 0.70; p < 0.05; α = 0.05), as well as the sea ice concentration in the Weddell Sea (r = -0.49; p = 0.05; α = 0.05) are other factors that measurably influence the δs in the study area. In the period covered by our study, the rarest and strongest wind events (SWE; > ⁓15 m/s) and extreme precipitation events (EPE) oscillate almost completely out of phase, and this relationship is largely explained by the sub-decadal changes in the SWE-ENSO relationship and by the SAM variability. This oscillatory pattern between SWE and EPE justifies the non-temporally stable correlation between δs and local temperature in the study area. For the period of 2013–2018, we show that the trigger to start accumulating snow on the studied site is the occurrence of a range of EPE in a short time or of the one EPE with higher snowfall rates and that, the low snowfall events are hardly ever preserved. Our snow accumulation composite record shows that the SWE-EPE seesaw governs the snow accumulation in the upstream area of the MIS basin in the 1999–2018 period. When the frequency of SWE increases and EPE decreases, the local snow accumulation increase. In contrast, in the opposite scenario, the accumulation approaches the forecast precipitation data indicating that the influence of blowing snow and wind drift decreases. Because of this relation, incredibly there was a significant decrease in snow accumulation in the study area in the 1999–2018 period due to an increase in EPE in recent years. Probably, in a scenario of future warming, the persistence of SAM positive trend, and the EPE increase due to intensification of wetter and warmer air masses incursions by the WSS such a relationship will change. Our results indicate that both isotopic compositions and snow accumulation are strongly influenced by large-scale modes of climate variability in the MIS basin inland. Furthermore, they also provide valuable information to understand mass balance at the basin scale in the WSS. We recommend more shallow drills and snow pits in this site to construct the best composite record to reconstruct these atmospheric circulation patterns and solve challenges regarding the topographic effect.

Andressa Marcher et al.

Status: open (until 11 Dec 2022)

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  • RC1: 'Comment on tc-2022-161', Anonymous Referee #1, 07 Nov 2022 reply

Andressa Marcher et al.

Andressa Marcher et al.


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Short summary
We investigated the stable water isotopes and snow accumulation records from the upper reaches of the Weddell Sea sector. Our findings revealed that these records are strongly influenced by large-scale modes of climate variability (SAM and ENSO) and synoptic scale events (both extreme precipitation and wind events). They also provide valuable information to understand mass balance on the basin scale in this sector.