The Arctic continental shelf seas hold a globally significant source of freshwater that impacts Arctic Ocean stratification, circulation, and climate. This freshwater can be injected below the surface mixed layer by intense turbulent kinetic energy dissipation events, as resolved by Laptev Sea microstructure observations. The tides provide a major source of energy that can be dissipated and hence drive diapycnal mixing in the Laptev Sea. Multiyear ADCP mooring records from locations across the shelf reveal that semidiurnal tides are dominated by the M2 and S2 constituents, with the largest amplitudes on the outer shelf. Throughout most of the shelf, tides are clockwise polarized and sheared by stratification, as characteristic near the M2 critical latitude. Interannual variations of the tidal and shear structures on the inner shelf are mainly determined by the stratification-setting Lena River freshwater plume. In all locations, M2 tides are enhanced under sea ice, and therefore changes in the seasonal ice cover may lead to changes in tides and water column structure. The main conclusions of this study are that (i) tides play a comparatively greater role year-round on the outer shelf relative to the inner shelf; (ii) a sea ice reduction will overall decrease the predictability of the currents, especially on the inner shelf; and (iii) the freshwater distribution directly impacts diapycnal mixing by setting the vertical tidal structure. These combined effects imply that future sea ice loss will increase the variability and vertical mixing of freshwater, particularly on the inner shelf, where the Lena River first enters the Laptev Sea.
The Siberian shelves are vast and shallow and comprise a large part of the total Arctic shelf area (Fig. 1). More than 80% of the Arctic freshwater input originates from Eurasian landmasses (Peterson et al. 2002; Holland et al. 2006) and enters the Siberian shelves—in particular, from the Ob, Yenisei, and Lena—three of the largest rivers on Earth, which shape the hydrographic and biogeochemical environment in these regions. Nevertheless, the Siberian shelves are among the least studied shelf seas on the planet and host a complex series of processes impacted by freshwater, Atlantic-derived basin water, sea ice, polynyas, and tides. As a representative of the Siberian shelves, the Laptev Sea, located between the Kara and East Siberian Seas, is an important ice formation and export region (Alexandrov et al. 2000; Krumpen et al. 2013) and the beginning of the Transpolar Drift system. Nearly half of the Laptev Sea is covered by landfast ice in winter, and polynyas frequently open along the landfast ice edge (Zakharov 1966; Bareiss and Görgen 2005). The Lena River freshwater controls stratification and carries suspended material (Wegner et al. 2013) and colored dissolved organic matter (Stedmon et al. 2011), regulating the light availability and the biological productivity on this shelf. Exchange mechanisms between coastal freshwater and Atlantic-derived water masses across the steep continental slope are crucial although not sufficiently understood. Undoubtedly, understanding the Laptev Sea ecosystem requires a comprehensive understanding of the mechanisms governing the freshwater distribution and variability.
The horizontal distribution of the Lena River freshwater is first-order dependent on the large-scale summer winds (Shpaikher et al. 1972), and hence it shows considerable interannual variability (Guay et al. 2001; Dmitrenko et al. 2010). During summers with predominantly offshore-directed winds, freshwater is advected offshore and to the East Siberian Sea, leading to anomalously weak stratification in the central Laptev Sea. Onshore-directed winds, on the other hand, accumulate freshwater on the shelf and cause strong stratification, which may persist through the following winter (Bauch et al. 2009; Dmitrenko et al. 2010). However, those processes controlling diapycnal mixing to vertically redistribute energy and matter remain poorly understood. Unlike the rather quiescent Arctic Basin (Rainville and Winsor 2008; Fer 2009), where double diffusion is a dominant mixing process (Rudels et al. 1999; Timmermans et al. 2008; Polyakov et al. 2012), Arctic shelves are known to include regions that are characterized by enhanced dissipation rates of turbulent kinetic energy ε. These are mainly related to tides and/or flow over variable topography (Padman and Dillon 1991; D’Asaro and Morison 1992; Sundfjord et al. 2007; Fer et al. 2010).
The critical latitude, where a tidal frequency equals the inertial frequency f, is known to affect certain tidal characteristics such as baroclinicity and potentially large boundary layers (Foldvik et al. 1990; Nøst 1994; Robertson 2001; Makinson et al. 2006). Kulikov et al. (2004) describe strongly baroclinic semidiurnal tides related to resonant generation of internal tides near the N2 critical latitude (70.98°N) on the Mackenzie shelf break in the Canadian Beaufort Sea. Tidal assimilation models such as the 5-km Arctic Ocean Tidal Inverse Model (AOTIM-5; Padman and Erofeeva 2004) show considerable tidal activity in parts of the Laptev Sea shelf, which is intersected by the M2 critical latitude (74.47°N). Critical latitude effects may be expected over a wider latitude band given the small meridional gradient of f in this region [~7 × 10−7 s−1 (°lat)−1] and the critical latitude’s dependence on the relative vorticity of the background circulation (D’Asaro and Morison 1992; Vlasenko et al. 2003), which is largely unknown in the Laptev Sea. Hence, the setup on the Laptev Sea shelf involves tides near the critical latitude combined with strong stratification and may lead to conditions favorable for enhanced tide-induced diapycnal mixing. Nevertheless, observations there are scarce and only a limited number of scientific contributions are specialized on the effect of tides on mixing. For instance, Dmitrenko et al. (2012) discussed the potential effect of tidal mixing based on current measurements in a coastal polynya, and Lenn et al. (2011, hereafter L11) combined microstructure and current measurements to show intermittent tide-induced mixing events at a northeastern Laptev Sea slope location under 100% ice cover. L11 attributed their observations to a mechanism proposed by Burchard and Rippeth (2009, hereafter BR09), which links intermittent shear spikes to the alignment of the semidiurnally rotating shear vector with the surface forcing.
The goal of this paper is to identify the dominant components of the tides and their relationship with stratification and seasonal ice cover as observed by oceanographic moorings across the Laptev Sea shelf. We further investigate the potential of tides for driving episodes of high ε based on microstructure measurements, and discuss the implications of a changing seasonal ice cover on tides and the mixing environment of the Laptev Sea. The paper is organized as follows. The next section provides background on the mixing environment of the Laptev Sea, followed by a data and methods description in section 3. Section 4 provides the results, including a presentation of the basic tidal characteristics (vertical structure, seasonal, spatial, and interannual variability) and their relationship with shear and sea ice. Discussion and conclusions are given in section 5.
2. Background: Intermittent mixing in the Laptev Sea
Critical latitude effects can result in mixing within very thick tidal top and bottom boundary layers (Foldvik et al. 1990) that can merge into a single mixed layer. In the Laptev Sea, the Lena River plume controls stratification, which can be strong enough to persist throughout the year. This suggests that the tidally driven boundary layers may remain distinct with the mixing inhibited by the persistent stratification. In fact, two cross-shelf microstructure transects (Fig. 1) along 126°E (74.50°–76.25°N, 7 stations) and 130°E (77.50°–74.25°N, 11 stations), respectively, revealed an energetic environment characterized by intermittent high ε events (Fig. 2) during an ice-free late September 2007 (Stroeve et al. 2008). The high ε events occur within a bottom boundary and at the base of the surface mixed layer, raising the obvious question about the mechanisms driving these events.
These microstructure data were collected with a Rockland Scientific International vertical microstructure profiler (VMP)-500 as part of the 2007 Arctic Synoptic Basin-wide Observations (ASBO) program during a joint cruise with the Nansen and Amundsen Basins Observational System (NABOS) research program aboard the Russian Research Vessel Viktor Buynitsky. Microstructure shear, temperature, and conductivity profiles from the VMP, in free-fall mode with typical fall speeds of 0.65 m s−1, were obtained at each station with approximately four repeat profiles, and were then edited and processed following standard procedures as described by Lenn et al. (2009) to produce estimates of ε. As these microstructure observations were taken along near-synoptic hydrographic sections spanning several hundreds of kilometers, they may not be regarded as a single-location time series usually undertaken in shelf process studies. Consequently, deciphering the role of tides in driving the observed ε requires particularly good knowledge of the phase and vertical character of the tidal currents, as they vary across the shelf.
3. Data and methods
We used data records from six different year-round mooring locations (Fig. 1), each providing between 1 and 4 years of data. The moorings were all operated as part of the German–Russian “Laptev Sea System” project, which is a continuing partnership between German and Russian research institutes begun in 1992. Short abbreviations for mooring identification were chosen from the original mooring names, which with exception of the outer shelf mooring (OS), were based on rivers close to the mooring location: Khatanga (KH), Anabar (AN), Lena (L), and Yana (Y). Besides some minor variations in the instrumentation (Table 1), each mooring was designed to remain a safe distance below the sea ice, and was equipped with Teledyne RD Instruments’ upward-looking 300-kHz Workhorse Sentinel acoustic Doppler current profilers (ADCP), profiling the water column in 1–2-m bins with a sampling frequency of 30 min. KH and AN feature an additional downward-looking 1200-kHz ADCP. Each mooring recorded temperature, salinity, and pressure with a near-bottom Sea-Bird Electronics (SBE)-37 conductivity–temperature–depth (CTD) recorder, which was occasionally complemented by unpumped Richard Brancker Research (RBR) Ltd. CTDs, mounted on the ADCP frames. Some deployments made use of the ADCP’s bottom-tracking mode, which provided local sea ice information (ice drift and relative ice thickness) above the mooring. The data collection spans three moorings with 2–4-yr-long deployments: OS, KH, and AN. Three single-year records are Y98, L98, and L03, where the numbers indicate the year of deployment. Mooring locations are presented in Fig. 1, and basic information on instruments and recording periods are summarized in Table 1. For a detailed description of the data processing and accuracies of ADCP and CTD data, please refer to Hölemann et al. (2011) or Janout et al. (2013).
The CTD profiles used in this paper were collected during summer (from mid-August to mid-September) expeditions to the Laptev Sea from 2007 to 2011, with the exception of one profile, taken in the vicinity of Y98 during a winter expedition during May 1999. The data were collected with SBE SeaCAT profilers (SBE19), which provide initial accuracies for temperature and conductivity of 0.005°C and 0.0005 S m−1, respectively.
Barotropic tides for the Laptev Sea were derived from AOTIM-5 output (Padman and Erofeeva 2004). This pan-Arctic assimilation model is highly resolved (5-km grid), assimilating data from coastal and benthic tide gauges (between 250 and 310 gauges per tidal constituent) and available satellite altimeters [364 cycles of Ocean Topography Experiment (TOPEX)/Poseidon and 108 cycles of European Remote Sensing Satellite (ERS) altimeter data] to simulate the most energetic tides M2, S2, O1, and K1, and in addition provides information on N2, K2, P1, and Q1. Model bathymetry is based on the International Bathymetric Chart of the Arctic Ocean (IBCAO; Jakobsson et al. 2008), and sea ice is not included in the model.
d. Sea ice
Satellite-based sea ice concentration is generated from brightness temperature data derived from the Nimbus-7 Scanning Multichannel Microwave Radiometer (SMMR), the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP) F8, F11, and F13 Special Sensor Microwave Imager (SSM/I), and the F17 Special Sensor Microwave Imager/Sounder (SSM/IS). The approximately daily data are provided by the National Snow and Ice Data Center on a polar stereographic grid with a cell size of 25 km × 25 km (Cavalieri et al. 2008). The ADCP’s bottom-tracking function alternatively provides localized information on the presence and absence of sea ice directly above the mooring. When ice is present, the transducer obtains good return signals, while in open water, scattering occurs at the surface and error velocities are high, indicating the absence of sea ice as a solid reflector.
a. Dominant modes of variability in currents and shear
ADCP-measured current records from year-round moorings from the Laptev Sea shelf (Fig. 1) were analyzed to determine the role of tides and near-inertial motion on shear and vertical mixing. Initially, the currents were depth averaged and decomposed into rotary components—that is, anticyclonic [clockwise (CW)] and cyclonic [counterclockwise (CCW)]—and then used for a spectral power analysis (Figs. 3a,b; Gonella 1972).
The currents’ power spectra are strongly dominated by semidiurnal frequencies at both OS and KH (Fig. 3). The spectra show statistically significant peaks at the M2 and S2 frequencies at both sites, and additionally a smaller N2 peak at OS. At OS, the CW component dominates the CCW component by one order of magnitude. In contrast, at KH the maximum CW component at semidiurnal frequency exceeds that of the CCW component by only a factor of ~4, implying comparatively weaker polarization on the inner shelf. Additional CW-polarized peaks at OS occur at diurnal frequencies (O1 and K1), again with weaker but statistically significant peaks in the CCW component. Diurnal frequencies play a minor role on the inner shelf compared to the relatively greater influence at OS and the Laptev Sea slope (Kowalik and Proshutinsky 1993; Padman and Erofeeva 2004).
Shear instabilities that drive diapycnal mixing may arise from baroclinicity in tidal currents. For first-order insights into the role of shear-driven mixing, we computed bulk shear by subtracting averaged lower-layer velocities (40–50 m at OS and 30–40 m at KH) from averaged upper-layer velocities (10–20 m) to capture the cross-pycnocline shear. The layers were chosen based on the depth of the pycnocline indicated by late-summer CTD profiles and the vertical structure of tides presented below. The difference in layer-averaged currents was then divided by the distance between these layers (30 m at OS and 20 m at KH) and decomposed accordingly into rotary spectra (Figs. 3c,d). At OS, the shear spectrum is again dominated by a CW-polarized peak in the semidiurnal band (Fig. 3c). The M2 and S2 CCW components as well as the diurnal currents are entirely depth uniform and therefore show no peaks in the shear spectrum. The semidiurnal spectral peak is slightly lower at KH than at OS, and features a comparatively stronger CCW peak (Fig. 3d).
b. Barotropic semidiurnal tides on the Laptev Sea shelf
The relative contribution of the major tidal constituents on the inner and outer shelves as well as their seasonal, interannual, and vertical variability was quantified by carrying out harmonic analysis on the ADCP records using the matrix laboratory (MATLAB) T-Tide package (Pawlowicz et al. 2002). Tidal currents are presented in ellipse parameters, including major Amaj and minor Amin axes, inclination, and phase angles, and are compared with tidal characteristics from AOTIM-5 (Table 2). The tidal ellipse results from the combination of two counterrotating circles (CW and CCW), which are computed according to
For a first-order estimate of the barotropic tide at each mooring site, harmonic analysis was performed on year-long vertically averaged ADCP records. Note that the vertical averages exclude the upper ~10 m of the water column due to range limitations and/or disturbances caused by sea ice. In agreement with AOTIM-5, the four leading constituents of the moored observations are the principal lunar M2 as the dominant constituent throughout the shelf, exceeding the second-strongest principal solar S2 by a factor of 2, followed by the lunar elliptical N2 and the semidiurnal lunisolar declinational constituent K2. Most ellipse characteristics are in reasonably good agreement between observations and AOTIM-5, although in some locations the observed tidal magnitudes can significantly exceed the model values (Fig. 4; Table 2). Tidal ellipses are nearly circular on the outer shelf and increasingly eccentric near shore, where the currents are influenced by the shallow bathymetry. The rotation of all semidiurnal constituents is predominantly clockwise except in the shallower nearshore regions, where tides are significantly weaker. The strongest tidal velocities are found on the outer shelf and, in particular, in the Gulf of Khatanga in the southwestern Laptev Sea, where resonance occurs (Kowalik and Proshutinsky 1994) and rotation switches to CCW (Fig. 4).
The year-round vertically averaged ADCP records across the Laptev Sea display strong fortnightly modulation due to the beating of M2 with S2 within a range of 5–20 cm s−1 between neap and spring cycles on the outer shelf (Fig. 5) and 3–10 cm s−1 on the inner shelf (Fig. 6), where the smaller tidal velocities are more irregular. In general, the OS record shows little seasonal variability, and tides explain ~71% of the outer shelf’s variability based on a harmonic analysis over the entire record. Harmonic analyses, performed over 29-day overlapping segments necessary to resolve a synodic month, indicate that tides explain most of the variability (85%–95%) under a nearly 100% sea ice cover, while the importance of tides drops to 60%–80% in the open water season (Fig. 5c), when wind effects become more important. Tides similarly dominate the total current variability at KH when ice is present (Fig. 6). However, the portion of the variance accounted for by tides is lower in early winter compared with late winter despite nearly 100% ice concentration throughout. This is likely related to a thinner and more mobile early-winter ice cover (Janout et al. 2013), which may transfer stress at the ice–ocean interface more effectively than during late-winter/spring conditions, when ice is thick and landfast ice is present in shore of the mooring location. Although sea ice may dampen wind-generated inertial oscillations (Rainville and Woodgate 2009), they were shown to penetrate loose pack ice (Padman and Kottmeier 2000; Kwok et al. 2003) and can hence not be ignored even under a solid ice cover. For example, in January 2010 the current’s variance explained by tides decreased to ~50%, coincident with increased meridional velocities (Fig. 6). This period was characterized by strong winds (>15 m s−1) and large ice drift velocities in the bottom-track record, but without apparent reductions in the ice concentration (not shown).
In contrast to the total tidal current, individual tidal constituents show a considerable seasonal variability in both M2 and S2 tides (Figs. 7a,b). The depth-averaged M2 CW tide is at a minimum during fall and nearly constant from December through July. However, S2 shows a strong semiannual oscillation with minima of ~4 cm s−1 occurring in both December and June, and maxima in October (~9 cm s−1) and March (~7 cm s−1). The semiannual oscillation results from the superposition of the S2 with the K2 constituent (period of 182.6 days), with maximum velocities when the sun passes the equator during the equinoxes. The N2 (not shown) is the weakest constituent without apparent seasonal signals. The inshore locations behave similarly at reduced magnitude.
c. Vertical structure of semidiurnal tides
Studying tides in the context of diapycnal mixing requires a detailed investigation into the vertical structure of the tides, as tidal baroclinicity is a source of shear. We subsampled our time series for the ice-covered periods, which we based on SSM/I sea ice concentration from the nearest grid point, in order to reduce the effect of wind-induced inertial motion in the ADCP data, and performed harmonic analysis on the individual depth levels (Fig. 8). Prandle (1982) and Foldvik et al. (1990) showed that, as the tidal frequency ω approaches the inertial frequency f, the Ekman boundary layers (BL) are separated in two independent layers, which scale according to
This implies that, with a constant eddy viscosity A, the CCW BL is constrained, while the CW BL may theoretically grow infinitely at the critical latitude, although it may be in reality bounded by stratification, as also pointed out by Kulikov et al. (2004). These considerations imply that vertical structures develop differently near the critical latitude, with a depth-dependent CW component and a nearly depth-uniform CCW component (Foldvik et al. 1990; Furevik and Foldvik 1996; Kulikov et al. 2004), which then has implications for shear and vertical mixing.
As expected, each mooring record shows a dominance of the CW component over the CCW component. CCW components are depth uniform without exceptions, while CW components in most locations (except AN) are highly depth dependent (Figs. 8, 9). The three OS deployments consistently display pronounced midwater maxima in their CW components in both M2 and S2 (not shown) constituents (Fig. 8a), located near the depth of the seasonal pycnocline in September (Fig. 10, described in greater detail below). Midwater maxima in M2 CW currents are apparent even in those moorings located under landfast ice (L98 and L03), where stratification can prevail throughout the winter despite the shallow bathymetry. Two out of three KH deployments feature comparatively depth-uniform M2 CW currents, although those may present a somewhat misleading picture related to the varying vertical structure through the course of a winter as shown by Janout et al. (2013) and as will be discussed later.
The relationship between stratification and the vertical tidal structure was previously shown in numerous studies (e.g., Visser et al. 1994; Souza and Simpson 1996; Makinson et al. 2006; Danielson and Kowalik 2005), and is additionally reemphasized by inspecting the few available under-ice CTD profiles that were taken at or in the vicinity of the mooring locations during an ADCP recording period. In particular, Y98 features sharp peaks in tides and stratification (Fig. 9), overall highlighting the impact of stratification on the baroclinicity of tidal currents, which has important consequences for diapycnal mixing processes on this shelf.
d. Interannual comparison of semidiurnal tides and shear
Stratification is crucial for understanding tidal dynamics, yet it is difficult to quantify with moorings in shallow ice-covered seas. However, the limited information that is available from the Laptev Sea shelf shows a positive relationship between shear and stratification (not shown), confirming that shear is generally strongest in the pycnocline (van Haren 2000; Howard et al. 2004). This relationship allows us to use the maximum shear level as an indicator for mixed layer depth and hence to qualitatively understand the connections between stratification, shear, tides, and sea ice.
The variability of the tidal currents displays links to sea ice concentration, near-bottom temperature, and salinity (Fig. 11: KH; Fig. 12: OS; both described in greater detail below) and indicates some contrasting dynamics between the inner and outer shelves. Basic differences of the two sites KH and OS are water depth (43 and ~60 m, respectively) and the proximity to the Lena freshwater source. The M2 currents at KH include inertial currents due to similar frequencies, and hence each summer and fall KH shows enhanced wind-driven currents near the surface. After the freeze-up, surface currents decrease and downward-progressing internal shear maxima are observed in each of the 4 years, reflecting a downward-progressing pycnocline. Interannual differences in the vertical structure of tides and shear hence result from differences in water column structures. Although winter stratification on the inner shelf is to a large degree governed by the (wind driven) distribution of the Lena freshwater plume during the previous summer (Dmitrenko et al. 2010), diapycnal mixing also features in the Laptev Sea’s mixed layer dynamics. The deepening of the pycnocline in winter is likely a result of a series of destabilizing forces such as tide-/shear-induced mixing, surface stress from ice motion, storm, and polynya events, or buoyancy loss during ice formation. In years with “average” stratification (Fig. 10), the mixing may be strong enough to erode stratification completely and lead to barotropic tidal structures by spring (e.g., spring of 2008 and 2011 in Fig. 11), but not in years with anomalously strong stratification (2008–09). The internal tidal maximum that appears in February 2010 despite the weak initial stratification, however, is a consequence of stratification induced by a near-bottom inflow of dense water from the shelf break (Janout et al. 2013). This 4-yr-long record shows a wide range of near-bottom temperature and salinity (from −1.8° to >0°C and 29.5–33.5) and implies that the inner shelf can be shaped by three-dimensional processes, complicating the prediction of vertical tidal structure and shear.
OS is farther away from the Lena outflow and hence the salinity is higher than at KH (Fig. 10) and its variability there is to first order dominated by the seasonal freeze and melt cycle. One major difference to KH is the persistence of the OS pycnocline near 20 m. Similar to KH, M2 tides are at a maximum below the pycnocline once an ice cover has developed, and weaken through the course of a winter until baroclinic tidal structures nearly recede by mid- to late spring (in 2 out of 3 years) (Fig. 12). In both of those years (April 2007 and March 2011), the recession of the shear at the pycnocline coincides with enhanced ice drift (not shown) and changes in the bottom water properties. While a more precise description of the development of the hydrographic structure on this shelf requires additional observations, our time series suggest that the processes acting on the inner shelf may be more complex than on the outer shelf. The tidal dynamics in both regions, however, appear to be closely influenced by the presence of sea ice.
e. On the relative importance of tides under ice versus open water
Because the dominant issues on Arctic shelves evolve around the changing sea ice conditions, we revisited our mooring records to obtain a better understanding of the relative importance of tides under sea ice versus open water current regimes across the shelf. For that purpose and with help from SSM/I sea ice concentration records, we ran tidal analyses on three subsets of each of the 12 ADCP records, which were divided into three periods: 1) the pre-ice season: from the beginning of the mooring deployment (late August/early September) until a sea ice concentration of 90% is reached, 2) the ice season: sea ice concentrations >90%, and 3) the post-ice season: from when sea ice recedes to <90% until the end of the deployment. Then, we compared the variance of tides for each period with the total variance in depth-averaged currents (Fig. 13). We again note that this analysis excludes the uppermost ~10 m of the water column due to range limitations of ADCPs and/or errors associated with rough under-ice topography, and hence the total variance—in particular, during the open water seasons—is underestimated. Nevertheless, these limitations apply equally to all mooring records and justify this comparison, which overall suggests contrasting conditions between the current regimes on the outer and inner shelves. All three OS records display a variance that is on average higher than the other moorings, largely unaffected by sea ice, and mostly (>80%) explained by tides (Fig. 13b). In contrast to OS, all other locations show considerably lower variance under ice cover with on average 50% explained by tides. However, at these inner shelf stations, the total variance increases sharply with open water (Fig. 13a), and the relative importance of tides decreases (Fig. 13b). Interannual differences in the variance—for instance, at KH—reflect the increasing effect of winds on these shallower locations.
These results imply that reductions in the sea ice cover will overall increase the variance of Laptev Sea currents and decrease the predictability due to a decreasing importance of tides. Overall, it can be expected that shorter ice seasons will increase the wind energy input and increase the vertical dispersion of freshwater near the Lena outflow, which may potentially decrease stratification unless this effect is offset by an increase in river discharge to the Arctic shelves (Peterson et al. 2002). Except for the deeper outer shelf regions, these consequences may be expected for most of the Laptev Sea, considering that ~80% (~90%) of the shelf south of 76.5°N and west of 140°E is shallower than 40 m (50 m) (International Bathymetric Chart of the Arctic Ocean; Jakobsson et al. 2008).
5. Discussion and conclusions
Microstructure transects across the Laptev Sea shelf revealed episodes of intense dissipation rates of turbulent kinetic energy. Because most of the kinetic energy is in the semidiurnal frequency band, the motivation for this paper was to better understand semidiurnal tides, including their vertical structure and temporal and spatial variability, and their importance for diapycnal mixing. Harmonic analysis on 12-year-round ADCP records from six different locations across the Laptev Sea shelf (Fig. 1) showed that (i) barotropic tides vary spatially (in agreement with AOTIM-5; Fig. 4); (ii) the currents on the outer shelf are dominated by tides year-round, while on the shallower (<40 m) inner shelf, particularly under landfast ice, tides are less important when sea ice is absent (Fig. 13); and (iii) baroclinic tidal structures are strongly coupled to stratification throughout the shelf (Figs. 8, 9, 11, 12).
The close links between stratification, tides, and shear likely have consequences for the Laptev Sea’s mixing environment. L11 invoked a mechanism proposed by BR09 to explain a striking episode of intense pycnocline dissipation observed during a 12-h time series of microstructure measurements taken under 100% ice cover in the northeast Laptev Sea near the continental shelf break. BR09 predict that intermittent peaks in shear that may drive turbulent mixing depend on the relative alignment between a rotating shear vector and the surface stress. In L11, the northeastern Laptev Sea currents were assumed to be dominated by a baroclinic tide and subject to surface forcing from the drifting ice. Here, we extended L11’s assessment of the BR09 mechanism for open water conditions across a wider swath of the Laptev Sea, using the September 2007 microstructure transects (Fig. 2) taken under relatively steady wind conditions, in spatial and temporal proximity to our long-term moorings (KH and OS, Fig. 1). Our results indicate that BR09 finds year-round application across the Laptev Sea shelf, emphasizing the role of tides for predicting the occurrence of shear spike production and diapycnal mixing in a sheared water column. For example, tidal currents inferred from the KH and OS moorings and predicted by AOTIM-5 for the 126°E section (Fig. 14b) imply a semidiurnally rotating current shear at the pycnocline (Fig. 14c) which, as predicted by BR09, is aligned with 6-hourly National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP) winds (Kalnay et al. 1996; Kistler et al. 1999) immediately preceding the observed high pycnocline dissipation (Fig. 14a).
Wind forcing will also drive inertial (here, very close to semidiurnal) shear across the pycnocline and result in higher shear-driven dissipation than the tides alone can account for. Nonetheless, given their predictability, the tides may remain useful in predicting the phasing of shear spiking. Furthermore, considering that winds move an open water surface faster than a pack ice cover, ever higher diapycnal mixing rates can be expected under future scenarios of reduced sea ice. Our observations as well as high-resolution three-dimensional modeling studies of tides in the Arctic (Chen et al. 2009) stress the importance of stratification on tidal structures and vertical shear, and future changes in the mixing environment will at least partly depend on changes in stratification. Those, however, are far from being understood, and depend on a variety of factors including changes in winds and sea ice timing, as well as on timing, volume, and distribution of river runoff.
The recent years featured several minimum sea ice records that are linked to large-scale atmospheric pressure patterns such as the Arctic dipole anomaly (Wu et al. 2006), and generally imply increasing meridional winds over the Siberian shelves in summer (Overland et al. 2012), with several consequences for the Laptev Sea. First, an early off-shelf sea ice export likely extends the open water season, which may lead to fundamental shifts in the Laptev Sea’s environment. Specifically, the Lena River freshwater plume encounters more energetic tides (and tidal mixing) when advected to the northern and northeastern Laptev Sea slope (Fig. 4). Consequently, stratification increases there, but it also enhances the tide-induced diapycnal mixing of coastal freshwater at the shelf break, which then may have consequences for the freshwater budget of the Arctic halocline (Aagaard et al. 1981).
Overall, tides dominate the shelf’s dynamics but depend on season, stratification, and location, with an inner shelf that is more difficult to predict, due to the comparatively smaller role of tides there than on the deeper outer shelf. Hence, these results clearly emphasize the three-dimensionality of this shelf and imply that future modeling efforts designed to predict the physical and biogeochemical environment under a changing climate must accurately resolve the complex interplay among freshwater, tides, winds, sea ice, and landfast ice.
Financial support for the Laptev Sea System project was provided by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (Grant BMBF 03G0759B and 03G0833B) and the Ministry of Education and Science of the Russian Federation. The microstructure data were collected under the U.K. Natural Environment Research Council ASBO Arctic IPY Consortium Grant, with additional support for the analysis provided by a NERC Postdoctoral Fellowship. We greatly acknowledge Heidi Kassens and Leo Timokhov for managing the Laptev Sea projects. We thank the captains and crews of the various research vessels involved in the data collection. Much of the mooring data collection is owed to the efforts of Jens Hölemann. We sincerely thank the editor, Laurie Padman, and Luc Rainville for their constructive reviews, which greatly improved the paper.