Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Decadal Climate Oscillations, Synoptic Variability, and Ice Core Climate Proxy Records in the Ross Sea Region, Antarctica

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posted on 2021-11-12, 14:56 authored by Markle, Bradley Ross

This thesis investigates synoptic variability in the Ross Sea region, Antarctica and develops geochemical proxies of this variability from an ice core record in Southern Victoria Land. Particular focus is given to the influence of decadal climate oscillations on synoptic conditions and potential records of these oscillations in ice core proxy records as long-­‐term records of these oscillations are important for understanding future climate change. I present an investigation of the joint influence of the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and the Southern Annular Mode (SAM) on variability in the Amundsen Sea Low (ASL), a dominant climatological feature that strongly influences the weather in the Ross Sea region. It is shown that the positive phase of each oscillation is associated with significant strengthening of the ASL, while negative phases are associated with a weakening. Through regression analysis I show that a simple linear combination of indices representing these oscillations can explain more than 40% of the geopotential height variance in the AS region at a seasonal scale and over 70% of the variance at an annual scale. These results are consistent with the known mechanisms of ENSO and SAM interaction in the region and show that while SAM is dominant hemispherically, ENSO is only influential in the Pacific Sector. Finally it is demonstrated that a simple model of linear reinforcement and interference between the oscillations describes their influence on the variability in the ASL better than models incorporating more complex interactions. Atmospheric back-­‐trajectory modeling and cluster analysis are used to investigate synoptic variability at the Gawn Ice Piedmont (GIP) ice core site in the Ross Sea Region, Antarctica. I identify two dominant air-­‐mass trajectory clusters: oceanic – cyclonic and continental trajectories. My analysis shows that oceanic – cyclonic trajectories peak during April (southern hemisphere winter), while continental trajectories reach their maximum during December (summer). A causal association is demonstrated between ENSO and the frequency of oceanic – cyclonic trajectories originating from the Ross Sea region. In contrast, it is shown that the Southern Annular Mode has little influence on the frequency of cyclonic clusters. I then develop proxy records for the synoptic variability using a shallow firn core from the GIP site containing 8 years of geochemical record. Continental trajectories correlate with concentrations of nitrate (NO3), which is sourced from stratospheric air-­‐masses descending over the Antarctic interior. Oceanic – cyclonic trajectory clusters strongly correlate with deuterium excess at seasonal and inter-­‐annual scales, a proxy sensitive to changes in relative humidity and sea surface temperature (SST) in the in the Ross and Amundsen Seas. Decadal variability in the frequency of oceanic – cyclonic trajectories is discussed with respect to ENSO, SAM, and changes in SST and sea ice extent.


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Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Master of Science

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Geography, Environment and Earth Sciences


Bertler, Nancy