The effect of atmospheric forcing resolution on delivery of ocean heat to the antarctic floating ice shelves

Michael S. Dinniman, John M. Klinck, Le Sheng Bai, David H. Bromwich, Keith M. Hines, David M. Holland

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Oceanic melting at the base of the floating Antarctic ice shelves is now thought to be a more significant cause of mass loss for the Antarctic ice sheet than iceberg calving. In this study, a 10-km horizontal-resolution circum-Antarctic ocean-sea ice-ice shelf model [based on the Regional Ocean Modeling System (ROMS)] is used to study the delivery of ocean heat to the base of the ice shelves. The atmospheric forcing comes from the ERA-Interim reanalysis (~80-km resolution) and from simulations using the polar-optimized Weather Research and Forecasting Model (30-km resolution), where the upper atmosphere was relaxed to the ERA-Interim reanalysis. The modeled total basal ice shelf melt is low compared to observational estimates but increases by 14% with the higher-resolution winds and just 3% with both the higher-resolution winds and atmospheric surface temperatures. The higher-resolution winds lead to more heat being delivered to the ice shelf cavities from the adjacent ocean and an increase in the efficiency of heat transfer between the water and the ice. The higher-resolution winds also lead to changes in the heat delivered from the open ocean to the continental shelves as well as changes in the heat lost to the atmosphere over the shelves, and the sign of these changes varies regionally. Addition of the higher-resolution temperatures to the winds results in lowering, primarily during summer, the wind-driven increase in heat advected into the ice shelf cavities due to colder summer air temperatures near the coast.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6067-6085
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Climate
Issue number15
StatePublished - 2015


  • Antarctica
  • Atmosphere-ocean interaction
  • Continental shelf/slope
  • Ice shelves
  • Ocean models
  • Southern Ocean

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science


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