Seasonal climate information preserved in West Antarctic ice core water isotopes: relationships to temperature, large-scale circulation, and sea ice
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- Küttel, M., Steig, E.J., Ding, Q. et al. Clim Dyn (2012) 39: 1841. doi:10.1007/s00382-012-1460-7
As part of the United States’ contribution to the International Trans-Antarctic Scientific Expedition (ITASE), a network of precisely dated and highly resolved ice cores was retrieved from West Antarctica. The ITASE dataset provides a unique record of spatial and temporal variations of stable water isotopes (δ18O and δD) across West Antarctica. We demonstrate that, after accounting for water vapor diffusion, seasonal information can be successfully extracted from the ITASE cores. We use meteorological reanalysis, weather station, and sea ice data to assess the role of temperature, sea ice, and the state of the large-scale atmospheric circulation in controlling seasonal average water isotope variations in West Antarctica. The strongest relationships for all variables are found in the cores on and west of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet Divide and during austral fall. During this season positive isotope anomalies in the westernmost ITASE cores are strongly related to a positive pressure anomaly over West Antarctica, low sea ice concentrations in the Ross and Amundsen Seas, and above normal temperatures. Analyses suggest that this seasonally distinct climate signal is due to the pronounced meridional oriented circulation and its linkage to enhanced sea ice variations in the adjacent Southern Ocean during fall, both of which also influence local to regional temperatures.