Antarctic Bottom Water (AABW) is pivotal for oceanic heat and carbon sequestrations on multidecadal to millennial timescales. The Weddell Sea contributes nearly a half of global AABW through Weddell Sea Deep Water and denser underlying Weddell Sea Bottom Water that form on the continental shelves via sea-ice production. Here we report an observed 30% reduction of Weddell Sea Bottom Water volume since 1992, with the largest decrease in the densest classes. This is probably driven by a multidecadal reduction in dense-water production over southern continental shelf associated with a >40% decline in the sea-ice formation rate. The ice production decrease is driven by northerly wind trend, related to a phase transition of the Interdecadal Pacific Oscillation since the early 1990s, superposed by Amundsen Sea Low intrinsic variability. These results reveal key influences on exported AABW to the Atlantic abyss and their sensitivity to large-scale, multidecadal climate variability.
Cite as: Zhou, S., Meijers, A.J.S., Meredith, M.P. et al. Slowdown of Antarctic Bottom Water export driven by climatic wind and sea-ice changes. Nat. Clim. Chang. (2023). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41558-023-01695-4
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This study received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement no. 821001 (SO-CHIC) and the Natural Environment Research Council (grant NE/N018095/1, ORCHESTRA, and NE/V013254/1, ENCORE). S.Ø. received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement no. 820575 (TiPACCs). A.S. acknowledges the funding from NERC (NE/V014285/1).