Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Antarctic Ocean Flows: an excerpt from Atlas of a Changing Earth


In this visualization of Antarctica, we cruise along the coastline of the Amundsen Sea from Cape Dart to the Pine Island Glacier. Initially we pass the massive Getz Ice Shelf on our right stretching over 300 miles (500 km) along the coast. As we approach the Smith Glacier and the Dotson Ice Shelf, the sea surface becomes transparent allowing us to see the ocean flows moving under the surface. These flows portray the direction, speed and temperature of the ocean circulation based on version 3 of the ECCO ocean circulation model. The flows are colored by temperature, spanning the range from 29.75 degrees Fahrenheit (-1.25 degrees Celsius) shown in blue to 34.25 degrees Fahrenheit (+1.25 degrees Celsius) shown in red. We see the ocean flows circulating around the Pine Island Bay and under the adjacent floating ice tongue of the Thwaites Glacier.  

As we approach the Pine Island Glacier, we dip below the surface of the bay and see the stratification of the temperature in the ocean flows, with the coldest water shown in blue near the surface and the warmer water shown in red at lower depths. We move forward under the floating ice of the Pine Island Glacier and see how the warmer ocean flows are circulating under the glacier's floating tongue, eroding the ice from beneath.  

The topography in this visualization has been exaggerated by 4x above sea level and 15x below sea level in order to more clearly observe the change in ocean temperature at various depths.


Credit / Source: NASA's Scientific Visualization Studio

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