Wind-Driven Variability of the Large-Scale Recirculating Flow in the Nordic Seas and Arctic Ocean

Pål E. Isachsen Norwegian Polar Institute, Tromsø, and Geophysical Institute, University of Bergen, Bergen, Norway

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J. H. LaCasce Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, Massachusetts, and Norwegian Meteorological Institute, Oslo, Norway

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C. Mauritzen Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, Massachusetts, and Norwegian Meteorological Institute, Oslo, Norway

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S. Häkkinen NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland

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Abstract

The varying depth-integrated currents in the Nordic seas and Arctic Ocean are modeled using an integral equation derived from the shallow-water equations. This equation assumes that mass divergence in the surface Ekman layer is balanced by convergence in the bottom Ekman layer. The primary flow component follows contours of f/H. The model employs observed winds and realistic bottom topography and has one free parameter, the coefficient of the (linear) bottom drag. The data used for comparison are derived from in situ current meters, satellite altimetry, and a primitive equation model. The current-meter data come from a 4-yr record at 75°N in the Greenland Sea. The currents here are primarily barotropic, and the model does well at simulating the variability. The “best” bottom friction parameter corresponds to a spindown time of 30–60 days. A further comparison with bottom currents from a mooring on the Norwegian continental slope, deployed over one winter period, also shows reasonable correspondence. The principal empirical orthogonal function obtained from satellite altimetry data in the Nordic seas has a spatial structure that closely resembles f/H. A direct comparison of this mode's fluctuations with those predicted by the theoretical model yields linear correlation coefficients in the range 0.75–0.85. The primitive equation model is a coupled ocean–ice version of the Princeton Ocean Model for the North Atlantic and Arctic. Monthly mean depth-averaged velocities are calculated from a 42-yr integration and then compared with velocities predicted from an idealized model driven by the same reanalyzed atmospheric winds. In the largely ice-free Norwegian Sea, the coherences between the primitive equation and idealized model velocities are as high as 0.9 on timescales of a few months to a few years. They are lower in the remaining partially or fully ice-covered basins of the Greenland Sea and the Arctic Ocean, presumably because ice alters the momentum transferred to the ocean by the wind. The coherence in the Canadian Basin of the Arctic can be increased substantially by forcing the idealized model with ice velocities rather than the wind. Estimates of the depth-integrated vorticity budget in the primitive equation model suggest that bottom friction is important but that lateral diffusion is of equal or greater importance in compensating surface Ekman pumping.

Corresponding author address: Joe LaCasce, Norwegian Meteorological Institute, P.O. Box 43, Blindern, 0313 Oslo, Norway. Email: jlacasce@met.no

Abstract

The varying depth-integrated currents in the Nordic seas and Arctic Ocean are modeled using an integral equation derived from the shallow-water equations. This equation assumes that mass divergence in the surface Ekman layer is balanced by convergence in the bottom Ekman layer. The primary flow component follows contours of f/H. The model employs observed winds and realistic bottom topography and has one free parameter, the coefficient of the (linear) bottom drag. The data used for comparison are derived from in situ current meters, satellite altimetry, and a primitive equation model. The current-meter data come from a 4-yr record at 75°N in the Greenland Sea. The currents here are primarily barotropic, and the model does well at simulating the variability. The “best” bottom friction parameter corresponds to a spindown time of 30–60 days. A further comparison with bottom currents from a mooring on the Norwegian continental slope, deployed over one winter period, also shows reasonable correspondence. The principal empirical orthogonal function obtained from satellite altimetry data in the Nordic seas has a spatial structure that closely resembles f/H. A direct comparison of this mode's fluctuations with those predicted by the theoretical model yields linear correlation coefficients in the range 0.75–0.85. The primitive equation model is a coupled ocean–ice version of the Princeton Ocean Model for the North Atlantic and Arctic. Monthly mean depth-averaged velocities are calculated from a 42-yr integration and then compared with velocities predicted from an idealized model driven by the same reanalyzed atmospheric winds. In the largely ice-free Norwegian Sea, the coherences between the primitive equation and idealized model velocities are as high as 0.9 on timescales of a few months to a few years. They are lower in the remaining partially or fully ice-covered basins of the Greenland Sea and the Arctic Ocean, presumably because ice alters the momentum transferred to the ocean by the wind. The coherence in the Canadian Basin of the Arctic can be increased substantially by forcing the idealized model with ice velocities rather than the wind. Estimates of the depth-integrated vorticity budget in the primitive equation model suggest that bottom friction is important but that lateral diffusion is of equal or greater importance in compensating surface Ekman pumping.

Corresponding author address: Joe LaCasce, Norwegian Meteorological Institute, P.O. Box 43, Blindern, 0313 Oslo, Norway. Email: jlacasce@met.no

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