Collaborative Research: The Maud Rise Nonlinear Equation of State Study (MaudNESS)
This project is an investigation into one mechanism by which deep ocean convection can evolve from stable initial conditions, to the extent that it becomes well enough established to bring warm water to the surface and melt an existing ice cover in late, or possibly even mid-winter. The specific study will investigate how the non-linear dependence of seawater density on temperature and salinity (the equation of state) can enhance vertical convection under typical antarctic conditions. When layers of seawater with similar densities but strong contrasts in temperature and salinity interact, there are a number of possible non-linear instabilities that can convert existing potential energy to turbulent energy. In the Weddell Sea, a cold surface mixed layer is often separated from the underlying warm, more saline water by a thin, weak pycnocline, making the water column particularly susceptible to an instability associated with thermobaricity (the pressure dependence of the thermal expansion coefficient). The project is a collaboration between New York University, Earth and Space Research, the University of Washington, the Naval Postgraduate School, and McPhee Research Company.
The work has strong practical applications in contributing to the explanation for the existence of the Weddell Polynya, a 300,000 square kilometer area of open water within the seasonal sea ice of the Weddell Sea, from approximately 1975 to 1979. It has not recurred since, although indications of much smaller and less persistent areas of open water do occur in the vicinity of the Maud Rise seamount.
The experimental component will be carried out on board the RVIB Nathaniel B. Palmer between July and September, 2005.
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