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Antarctic Research Features

The lack of landmasses, climatological low pressure, and strong circumpolar westerly winds between the latitudes of 50°S to 65°S produce exceptional storm-driven wave conditions in the Southern Ocean. This combination makes the Antarctic Peninsula one of Earth's most notable regions of high-amplitude wave activity and thus, ocean-swell-driven microseism noise in both the primary (direct wave-coastal region interactions) and secondary (direct ocean floor forcing due to interacting wave trains) period bands. Microseism observations are examined across 23 years (1993–2015) from Palmer Station (PMSA), on the west coast of the Antarctic Peninsula, and from East Falkland Island (EFI). These records provide a spatially integrative measure of both Southern Ocean wave amplitudes and the interactions between ocean waves and the solid Earth in the presence of sea ice, which can reduce wave coupling with the continental shelf. We utilize a spatiotemporal correlation-based approach to illuminate how the distribution of sea ice influences seasonal microseism power. We characterize primary and secondary microseism power due to variations in sea ice and find that primary microseism energy is both more sensitive to sea ice and more capable of propagating across ocean basins than secondary microseism energy. During positive phases of the Southern Annular Mode, sea ice is reduced in the Bellingshausen Sea and overall storm activity in the Drake Passage increases, thus strongly increasing microseism power levels.

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