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Arctic Cyclone Activity and the Beaufort High

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  • 1 Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut
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Abstract

The Beaufort high (BH) and its accompanying anticyclonic winds drive the Arctic Ocean’s Beaufort Gyre, the major freshwater reservoir of the Arctic Ocean. The Beaufort Gyre circulation and its capacity to accumulate or release freshwater rely on the BH intensity. The migration of Nordic seas cyclones into the Arctic has been hypothesized to moderate the strength of the BH. We explore this hypothesis by analyzing reanalysis sea level pressure fields to characterize the BH and identify and track cyclones north of 60°N during 1948–2019. A cluster analysis of Nordic seas cyclone trajectories reveals a western pathway (through the Arctic interior) associated with a relatively weak BH and an eastern pathway (along the Arctic periphery) associated with a relatively strong BH. Furthermore, we construct cyclone activity indices (CAIs) in the Arctic and Nordic seas that take into account multiple cyclone parameters (number, strength, and duration). There are significant correlations between the BH and the CAIs in the Arctic and Nordic seas during 1948–2019, with anomalously strong cyclone activity related to an anomalously weak BH, and vice versa. We show how the Arctic and Nordic seas CAIs experienced a regime shift toward increased cyclone activity between the first four decades analyzed (1948–88) and the most recent three decades (1989–2019). Over the same two time periods, the BH exhibits a weakening. Increased cyclone activity and an accompanying weakening of the BH may be consistent with expectations in a warming Arctic and have implications for Beaufort Gyre dynamics and freshwater.

© 2021 American Meteorological Society. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Kenigson’s current affiliation: Department of Applied Mathematics, University of Colorado Boulder, Boulder, Colorado.

Corresponding author: J. S. Kenigson, jessica.kenigson@colorado.edu

Abstract

The Beaufort high (BH) and its accompanying anticyclonic winds drive the Arctic Ocean’s Beaufort Gyre, the major freshwater reservoir of the Arctic Ocean. The Beaufort Gyre circulation and its capacity to accumulate or release freshwater rely on the BH intensity. The migration of Nordic seas cyclones into the Arctic has been hypothesized to moderate the strength of the BH. We explore this hypothesis by analyzing reanalysis sea level pressure fields to characterize the BH and identify and track cyclones north of 60°N during 1948–2019. A cluster analysis of Nordic seas cyclone trajectories reveals a western pathway (through the Arctic interior) associated with a relatively weak BH and an eastern pathway (along the Arctic periphery) associated with a relatively strong BH. Furthermore, we construct cyclone activity indices (CAIs) in the Arctic and Nordic seas that take into account multiple cyclone parameters (number, strength, and duration). There are significant correlations between the BH and the CAIs in the Arctic and Nordic seas during 1948–2019, with anomalously strong cyclone activity related to an anomalously weak BH, and vice versa. We show how the Arctic and Nordic seas CAIs experienced a regime shift toward increased cyclone activity between the first four decades analyzed (1948–88) and the most recent three decades (1989–2019). Over the same two time periods, the BH exhibits a weakening. Increased cyclone activity and an accompanying weakening of the BH may be consistent with expectations in a warming Arctic and have implications for Beaufort Gyre dynamics and freshwater.

© 2021 American Meteorological Society. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Kenigson’s current affiliation: Department of Applied Mathematics, University of Colorado Boulder, Boulder, Colorado.

Corresponding author: J. S. Kenigson, jessica.kenigson@colorado.edu
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