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An T. Nguyen, Ronald Kwok, and Dimitris Menemenlis

Abstract

A coupled ocean and sea ice model is used to investigate dense water (DW) formation in the Chukchi and Bering shelves and the pathways by which this water feeds the upper halocline. Two 1992–2008 data-constrained solutions at 9- and 4-km horizontal grid spacing show that 1) winter sea ice growth results in brine rejection and DW formation; 2) the DW flows primarily down Barrow and Central–Herald Canyons in the form of bottom-trapped, intermittent currents to depths of 50–150 m from the late winter to late summer seasons; and 3) eddies with diameters ~ 30 km carry the cold DW from the shelf break into the Canada Basin interior at depths of 50–150 m. The 4-km data-constrained solution does not show eddy transport across the Chukchi Shelf at shallow depths; instead, advection of DW downstream of polynya regions is driven by a strong (~0.1 m s−1) mean current on the Chukchi Shelf. Upper halocline water (UHW) formation rate was obtained from two methods: one is based on satellite data and on a simple parameterized approach, and the other is computed from the authors’ model solution. The two methods yield 5740 ±1420 km3 yr−1 and 4190–4860 ±1440 km3 yr−1, respectively. These rates imply a halocline replenishment period of 10–21 yr. Passive tracers also show that water with highest density forms in the Gulf of Anadyr and along the eastern Siberian coast immediately north of the Bering Strait. These results provide a coherent picture of the seasonal development of UHW at high spatial and temporal resolutions and serve as a guide for improving understanding of water-mass formation in the western Arctic Ocean.

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