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Surface winds over West AntarcticaFive winter months (April-August 1988) of thermal infrared satellite images were examined to investigate the occurrence of dark (warm) signatures across the Ross Ice Shelf in the Antarctic continent. These features are inferred to be generated by katabatic winds that descend from southern Marie Byrd Land and then blow horizontally across the ice shelf. Significant mass is added to this airstream by katabatic winds blowing from the major glaciers that flow through the Transantarctic Mountains from East Antarctica. These negatively buoyant katabatic winds can reach the northwestern edge of the shelf - a horizontal propagation distance of up to 1,000 km - 14 percent of the time. Where the airstream crosses from the ice shelf to the ice-covered Ross Sea, a prominent coastal polynya is formed. Because the downslope buoyancy force is near zero over the Ross Ice Shelf, the northwestward propagation of the katabatic air mass requires pressure gradient support. The study shows that the extended horizontal propagation of this atmospheric density current occurred in conjunction with the passage of synoptic cyclones over the southern Amundsen Sea. These cyclones can strengthen the pressure gradient in the interior of West Antarctica and make the pressure field favorable for northwestward movement of the katabatic winds from West Antarctica across the ice shelf in a geostrophic direction. The glacier winds from East Antarctica are further accelerated by the synoptic pressure gradient, usually undergo abrupt adjustment beyond the exit to the glacier valley, and merge into the mountain-parallel katabatic air mass.
Document ID
Document Type
Conference Paper
Bromwich, David
(Ohio State Univ. Columbus, OH, United States)
Date Acquired
September 6, 2013
Publication Date
July 1, 1993
Publication Information
Publication: NASA. Goddard Space Flight Center, The First Annual West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) Science Workshop
Subject Category
Distribution Limits
Work of the US Gov. Public Use Permitted.

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IDRelationTitle19930022689Analytic PrimaryThe First Annual West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) Science Workshop
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