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A preliminary synoptic assessment of soil frost on Marion Island and the possible consequences of climate change in a maritime sub-Antarctic environment

Author(s): Werner Nel

Journal: Polar Research
ISSN 0800-0395

Volume: 31;
Start page: 1;
Date: 2012;
Original page

Keywords: Marion Island | climate change | synoptic weather | soil frost | sub-Antarctic | air mass circulation

Located in the sub-Antarctic, Marion Island (46° 54′ S, 37° 45′ E) has a distinct periglacial environment that is sensitive to climate change. Diurnal soil frost is the most important geomorphic process occurring on the island and this paper aims to understand the synoptic weather circulation pattern associated with summer soil frost occurrence in a sub-Antarctic environment. Preliminary results from automated microclimate measurements in the interior of Marion Island show that summer soil frost is dependent on Antarctic air mass circulation. This occurs exclusively during post-cyclonic airflow after the passage of a cold front connected to a mid-latitudinal cyclone and subsequent ridging in of the South Atlantic Anticyclone behind the cold front, or when a series of low pressure systems passes over the island. The duration and intensity of soil frost cycles are dependent on the duration of post-cyclonic Antarctic air mass circulation. Summer soil frost on Marion Island is driven by a complex interaction between the latitudinal position of the passing cyclone, the latitudinal position of the ridging anticyclone as well as the trajectory of the air mass circulation. The data suggest that predicted trends in synoptic climate change in the sub-Antarctic may lead to non-linear responses in soil frost dynamics.
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