The development of coastal polynyas, areas of enhanced heat flux and sea ice production strongly depend on atmospheric conditions. In Antarctica, measurements are scarce and models are essential for the investigation of polynyas. A robust quantification of polynya exchange processes in simulations relies on a realistic representation of atmospheric conditions in the forcing dataset. The sensitivity of simulated coastal polynyas in the south-western Weddell Sea to the atmospheric forcing is investigated with the Finite-Element Sea ice-Ocean Model (FESOM) using daily NCEP/NCAR reanalysis data (NCEP), 6 hourly Global Model Europe (GME) data and two different hourly datasets from the high-resolution Consortium for Small-Scale Modelling (COSMO) model. Results are compared for April to August in 2007–09. The two coarse-scale datasets often produce the extremes of the data range, while the finer-scale forcings yield results closer to the median. The GME experiment features the strongest winds and, therefore, the greatest polynya activity, especially over the eastern continental shelf. This results in higher volume and export of High Salinity Shelf Water than in the NCEP and COSMO runs. The largest discrepancies between simulations occur for 2008, probably due to differing representations of the ENSO pattern at high southern latitudes. The results suggest that the large-scale wind field is of primary importance for polynya development.