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Simulated Response of the Arctic Freshwater Budget to Extreme NAO Wind Forcing

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  • 1 Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts
  • | 2 School of Fisheries and Marine Sciences, University of Alaska Fairbanks, Fairbanks, Alaska
  • | 3 Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts
  • | 4 Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, California
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Abstract

The authors investigate the response of the Arctic Ocean freshwater budget to changes in the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) using a regional-ocean configuration of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology GCM (MITgcm) and carry out several different 10-yr and 30-yr integrations. At 1/6° (∼18 km) resolution the model resolves the major Arctic transport pathways, including Bering Strait and the Canadian Archipelago. Two main calculations are performed by repeating the wind fields of two contrasting NAO years in each run for the extreme negative and positive NAO phases of 1969 and 1989, respectively. These calculations are compared both with a control run and the compiled observationally based freshwater budget estimate of Serreze et al.

The results show a clear response in the Arctic freshwater budget to NAO forcing, that is, repeat NAO negative wind forcing results in virtually all freshwater being retained in the Arctic, with the bulk of the freshwater content being pooled in the Beaufort gyre. In contrast, repeat NAO positive forcing accelerates the export of freshwater out of the Arctic to the North Atlantic, primarily via Fram Strait (∼900 km3 yr−1) and the Canadian Archipelago (∼500 km3 yr−1), with a total loss in freshwater storage of ∼13 000 km3 (15%) after 10 yr. The large increase in freshwater export through the Canadian Archipelago highlights the important role that this gateway plays in redistributing the freshwater of the Arctic to subpolar seas, by providing a direct pathway from the Arctic basin to the Labrador Sea, Gulf Stream system, and Atlantic Ocean.

The authors discuss the sensitivity of the Arctic Ocean to long-term fixed extreme NAO states and show that the freshwater content of the Arctic is able to be restored to initial values from a depleted freshwater state after ∼20 yr.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Alan Condron, Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA 02139. Email: acondron@whoi.edu

Abstract

The authors investigate the response of the Arctic Ocean freshwater budget to changes in the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) using a regional-ocean configuration of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology GCM (MITgcm) and carry out several different 10-yr and 30-yr integrations. At 1/6° (∼18 km) resolution the model resolves the major Arctic transport pathways, including Bering Strait and the Canadian Archipelago. Two main calculations are performed by repeating the wind fields of two contrasting NAO years in each run for the extreme negative and positive NAO phases of 1969 and 1989, respectively. These calculations are compared both with a control run and the compiled observationally based freshwater budget estimate of Serreze et al.

The results show a clear response in the Arctic freshwater budget to NAO forcing, that is, repeat NAO negative wind forcing results in virtually all freshwater being retained in the Arctic, with the bulk of the freshwater content being pooled in the Beaufort gyre. In contrast, repeat NAO positive forcing accelerates the export of freshwater out of the Arctic to the North Atlantic, primarily via Fram Strait (∼900 km3 yr−1) and the Canadian Archipelago (∼500 km3 yr−1), with a total loss in freshwater storage of ∼13 000 km3 (15%) after 10 yr. The large increase in freshwater export through the Canadian Archipelago highlights the important role that this gateway plays in redistributing the freshwater of the Arctic to subpolar seas, by providing a direct pathway from the Arctic basin to the Labrador Sea, Gulf Stream system, and Atlantic Ocean.

The authors discuss the sensitivity of the Arctic Ocean to long-term fixed extreme NAO states and show that the freshwater content of the Arctic is able to be restored to initial values from a depleted freshwater state after ∼20 yr.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Alan Condron, Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA 02139. Email: acondron@whoi.edu

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