Journal of Ocean University of China

, Volume 16, Issue 5, pp 766–774 | Cite as

The evolution of water property in the Mackenzie Bay polynya during Antarctic winter

  • Zhixin Xu
  • Guoping Gao
  • Jianping Xu
  • Maochong Shi


Temperature and salinity profile data, collected by southern elephant seals equipped with autonomous CTD-Satellite Relay Data Loggers (CTD-SRDLs) during the Antarctic wintertime in 2011 and 2012, were used to study the evolution of water property and the resultant formation of the high density water in the Mackenzie Bay polynya (MBP) in front of the Amery Ice Shelf (AIS). In late March the upper 100–200 m layer is characterized by strong halocline and inversion thermocline. The mixed layer keeps deepening up to 250 m by mid-April with potential temperature remaining nearly the surface freezing point and sea surface salinity increasing from 34.00 to 34.21. From then on until mid-May, the whole water column stays isothermally at about −1.90℃ while the surface salinity increases by a further 0.23. Hereafter the temperature increases while salinity decreases along with the increasing depth both by 0.1 order of magnitude vertically. The upper ocean heat content ranging from 120.5 to 2.9 MJ m−2, heat flux with the values of 9.8–287.0 W m−2 loss and the sea ice growth rates of 4.3–11.7 cm d−1 were estimated by using simple 1-D heat and salt budget methods. The MBP exists throughout the whole Antarctic winter (March to October) due to the air-sea-ice interaction, with an average size of about 5.0×103 km2. It can be speculated that the decrease of the salinity of the upper ocean may occur after October each year. The recurring sea-ice production and the associated brine rejection process increase the salinity of the water column in the MBP progressively, resulting in, eventually, the formation of a large body of high density water.

Key words

Antarctic Mackenzie Bay polynya sea ice formation heat flux brine rejection 


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This research is supported by the Science and Technology Basic Work of the Ministry of Science and Technology of China (No. 2012FY112300) It is our pleasure to thank Prof. Mark Hindell from the University of Tasmania, Australia, for providing the IMOS Seal-CTD data.


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Copyright information

© Science Press, Ocean University of China and Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Zhixin Xu
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    • 4
  • Guoping Gao
    • 3
  • Jianping Xu
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    • 4
  • Maochong Shi
    • 1
  1. 1.College of Oceanic and Atmospheric SciencesOcean University of ChinaQingdaoP. R. China
  2. 2.State Key Laboratory of Satellite Ocean Environment Dynamics (SOED)State Oceanic AdministrationHangzhouP. R. China
  3. 3.Shanghai Ocean UniversityCollege of Marine SciencesShanghaiP. R. China
  4. 4.The Second Institute of OceanographyState Oceanic AdministrationHangzhouP. R. China

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