Ducklow, H. W., K. Baker, D. G. Martinson, L. B. Quetin, R. M. Ross, R. C. Smith, S. E. Stammerjohn, M. Vernet and W. Fraser, 2007: Marine pelagic ecosystems: The West Antarctic Peninsula. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B-Biological Sciences, 362(1477): 67-94.
The marine ecosystem of the West Antarctic Peninsula (WAP) extends from the Bellingshausen Sea to the northern tip of the peninsula and from the mostly glaciated coast across the continental shelf to the shelf break in the west. The glacially sculpted coastline along the peninsula is highly convoluted and characterized by deep embayments that are often interconnected by channels that facilitate transport of heat and nutrients into the shelf domain. The ecosystem is divided into three subregions, the continental slope, shelf and coastal regions, each with unique ocean dynamics, water mass and biological distributions. The WAP shelf lies within the Antarctic Sea Ice Zone (SIZ) and like other SIZs, the WAP system is very productive, supporting large stocks of marine mammals, birds and the Antarctic krill, Euphausia superba. Ecosystem dynamics is dominated by the seasonal and interannual variation in sea ice extent and retreat. The Antarctic Peninsula is one among the most rapidly warming regions on Earth, having experienced a 2 degrees C increase in the annual mean temperature and a 6 degrees C rise in the mean winter temperature since 1950. Delivery of heat from the Antarctic Circumpolar Current has increased significantly in the past decade, sufficient to drive to a 0.6 degrees C warming of the upper 300 m of shelf water. In the past 50 years and continuing in the twenty-first century, the warm, moist maritime climate of the northern WAP has been migrating south, displacing the once dominant cold, dry continental Antarctic climate and causing multi-level responses in the marine ecosystem. Ecosystem responses to the regional warming include increased heat transport, decreased sea ice extent and duration, local declines in ice-dependent Adelie penguins, increase in ice-tolerant gentoo and chinstrap penguins, alterations in phytoplankton and zooplankton community composition and changes in krill recruitment, abundance and availability to predators. The climate/ecological gradients extending along the WAP and the presence of monitoring systems, field stations and long-term research programmes make the region an invaluable observatory of climate change and marine ecosystem response.
Martinson, D. G. and W. C. Pitman, 2007: The Arctic as a trigger for glacial terminations. Climatic Change, 80(3-4): 253-263.
We propose a hypothesis to explain the very abrupt terminations that end most of the glacial episodes. During the last glaciation, the buildup and southerly expansion of large continental ice-sheets in the Northern Hemisphere and extensive cover of sea ice in the N. Pacific and the N. Atlantic imposed a much more zonal climatic circulation system than exists today. We hypothesize that this, in combination with the frigid (dry) polar air led to a significant decrease in freshwater runoff into the Arctic Ocean. In addition the freshwater contribution of the fresher Pacific water was completely eliminated by the emergence of the Bering Strait (sill depth 50 m). As the Arctic freshwater input was depleted, regions of the Arctic Ocean lost surface stability and eventually overturned, bringing warmer deep water to the surface where it melted the overlying sea ice. This upwelled water was quickly cooled and sank as newly formed deep water. For sustained overturn events, such as might have occurred during the peak of very large glacial periods (i.e. the last glacial maximum), the voluminous deep water formed would eventually overflow into the Nordic Seas and North Atlantic necessitating an equally voluminous rate of return flow of warmer surface waters from the North Atlantic thus breaking down the Arctic's zonal isolation, melting the expansive NA sea ice cover and initiating oceanic heating of the atmosphere over the ice-sheets bordering the NA. We suggest that the combined effect of these overturn-induced events in concert with a Milankovitch warming cycle, was sufficient to drive the system to a termination. We elaborate on this proposed sequence of events, using the model for the formation of the Weddell Sea polynya as proposed by Martinson et al. (1981) and various, albeit sparse, data sets from the circum-Arctic region to apply and evaluate this hypothesis to the problem of glacial terminations.
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