Eddies in the Canada Basin, Arctic Ocean, Observed from Ice-Tethered Profilers

M-L. Timmermans Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, Massachusetts

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J. Toole Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, Massachusetts

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A. Proshutinsky Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, Massachusetts

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R. Krishfield Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, Massachusetts

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A. Plueddemann Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, Massachusetts

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Abstract

Five ice-tethered profilers (ITPs), deployed between 2004 and 2006, have provided detailed potential temperature θ and salinity S profiles from 21 anticyclonic eddy encounters in the central Canada Basin of the Arctic Ocean. The 12–35-m-thick eddies have center depths between 42 and 69 m in the Arctic halocline, and are shallower and less dense than the majority of eddies observed previously in the central Canada Basin. They are characterized by anomalously cold θ and low stratification, and have horizontal scales on the order of, or less than, the Rossby radius of deformation (about 10 km). Maximum azimuthal speeds estimated from dynamic heights (assuming cyclogeostrophic balance) are between 9 and 26 cm s−1, an order of magnitude larger than typical ambient flow speeds in the central basin. Eddy θS and potential vorticity properties, as well as horizontal and vertical scales, are consistent with their formation by instability of a surface front at about 80°N that appears in historical CTD and expendable CTD (XCTD) measurements. This would suggest eddy lifetimes longer than 6 months. While the baroclinic instability of boundary currents cannot be ruled out as a generation mechanism, it is less likely since deeper eddies that would originate from the deeper-reaching boundary flows are not observed in the survey region.

Corresponding author address: Mary-Louise Timmermans, WHOI, MS 21, Woods Hole, MA 02453. Email: mtimmermans@whoi.edu

Abstract

Five ice-tethered profilers (ITPs), deployed between 2004 and 2006, have provided detailed potential temperature θ and salinity S profiles from 21 anticyclonic eddy encounters in the central Canada Basin of the Arctic Ocean. The 12–35-m-thick eddies have center depths between 42 and 69 m in the Arctic halocline, and are shallower and less dense than the majority of eddies observed previously in the central Canada Basin. They are characterized by anomalously cold θ and low stratification, and have horizontal scales on the order of, or less than, the Rossby radius of deformation (about 10 km). Maximum azimuthal speeds estimated from dynamic heights (assuming cyclogeostrophic balance) are between 9 and 26 cm s−1, an order of magnitude larger than typical ambient flow speeds in the central basin. Eddy θS and potential vorticity properties, as well as horizontal and vertical scales, are consistent with their formation by instability of a surface front at about 80°N that appears in historical CTD and expendable CTD (XCTD) measurements. This would suggest eddy lifetimes longer than 6 months. While the baroclinic instability of boundary currents cannot be ruled out as a generation mechanism, it is less likely since deeper eddies that would originate from the deeper-reaching boundary flows are not observed in the survey region.

Corresponding author address: Mary-Louise Timmermans, WHOI, MS 21, Woods Hole, MA 02453. Email: mtimmermans@whoi.edu

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