Characterising the seasonal cycle of wind forcing, surface circulation and temperature around the sub-Antarctic Prince Edward Islands
Located between the sub-Antarctic Front and the Antarctic Polar Front, the Prince Edward Islands (PEIs) provide an essential breeding ground for top predators and are an ideal location to investigate disturbances linked to climate change. This study provides the first seasonal characterisation of surface hydrography at the PEIs, using satellite and reanalysis products from 1993 to 2016. Sea surface temperature (SST) showed consistently higher values to the north, while wind, currents and eddy kinetic energy all showed higher values to the south of the islands. The highest SST (8 °C) occurred in summer and the lowest (2 °C) in winter, with a one- to two-month delay between the maximum incoming solar radiation (in December–January) and the highest SST (in February). The highest wind
speed occurred in July (10.8 m s−1) and the minimum in February (7 m s−1). Geostrophic currents were four-times larger than Ekman currents, showing lower speeds between April and June (0.25–0.30 m s−1) and a peak in August (0.45 m s−1). There were no significant differences for SST and Ekman currents between the regions upstream and downstream of the PEIs. In contrast, surface total and geostrophic current velocities were weaker downstream because the islands act as a barrier to the flow. A zone of lower wind speed, coinciding with enhanced positive wind stress curl (WSC), favouring downwelling, occurred directly upstream throughout the year. Although WSC over the PEIs was negative (upwelling-favourable), no corresponding cooling was evident in SST. This seasonal characterisation provides a baseline against which interannual/decadal variability and future changes in these parameters can be assessed.
Keywords: Antarctic Polar Front, eddy kinetic energy, monthly climatology, satellite data, Southern Ocean, sub-Antarctic Front, surface currents, wind speed, wind stress curl