Marine Science Faculty Publications


Arctic Ocean Circulation Patterns Revealed by GRACE

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Arctic, Arctic Oscillation, Atmosphere-ocean interaction, Ocean circulation, Ocean dynamics, Satellite observations

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Measurements of ocean bottom pressure (OBP) anomalies from the satellite mission Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE), complemented by information from two ocean models, are used to investigate the variations and distribution of the Arctic Ocean mass from 2002 through 2011. The forcing and dynamics associated with the observed OBP changes are explored. Major findings are the identification of three primary temporal–spatial modes of OBP variability at monthly-to-interannual time scales with the following characteristics. Mode 1 (50% of the variance) is a wintertime basin-coherent Arctic mass change forced by southerly winds through Fram Strait, and to a lesser extent through Bering Strait. These winds generate northward geostrophic current anomalies that increase the mass in the Arctic Ocean. Mode 2 (20%) reveals a mass change along the Siberian shelves, driven by surface Ekman transport and associated with the Arctic Oscillation. Mode 3 (10%) reveals a mass dipole, with mass decreasing in the Chukchi, East Siberian, and Laptev Seas, and mass increasing in the Barents and Kara Seas. During the summer, the mass decrease on the East Siberian shelves is due to the basin-scale anticyclonic atmospheric circulation that removes mass from the shelves via Ekman transport. During the winter, the forcing mechanisms include a large-scale cyclonic atmospheric circulation in the eastern-central Arctic that produces mass divergence into the Canada Basin and the Barents Sea. In addition, strengthening of the Beaufort high tends to remove mass from the East Siberian and Chukchi Seas. Supporting previous modeling results, the month-to-month variability in OBP associated with each mode is predominantly of barotropic character.

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Citation / Publisher Attribution

Journal of Climate, v. 27, issue 4, p. 1445-1468