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Wilken-Jon von Appen, Ursula Schauer, Tore Hattermann, and Agnieszka Beszczynska-Möller

Abstract

The West Spitsbergen Current (WSC) is a topographically steered boundary current that transports warm Atlantic Water northward in Fram Strait. The 16 yr (1997–2012) current and temperature–salinity measurements from moorings in the WSC at 78°50′N reveal the dynamics of mesoscale variability in the WSC and the central Fram Strait. A strong seasonality of the fluctuations and the proposed driving mechanisms is described. In winter, water is advected in the WSC that has been subjected to strong atmospheric cooling in the Nordic Seas, and as a result the stratification in the top 250 m is weak. The current is also stronger than in summer and has a greater vertical shear. This results in an e-folding growth period for baroclinic instabilities of about half a day in winter, indicating that the current has the ability to rapidly grow unstable and form eddies. In summer, the WSC is significantly less unstable with an e-folding growth period of 2 days. Observations of the eddy kinetic energy (EKE) show a peak in the boundary current in January–February when it is most unstable. Eddies are then likely advected westward, and the EKE peak is observed 1–2 months later in the central Fram Strait. Conversely, the EKE in the WSC as well as in the central Fram Strait is reduced by a factor of more than 3 in late summer. Parameterizations for the expected EKE resulting from baroclinic instability can account for the observed EKE values. Hence, mesoscale instability can generate the observed variability, and high-frequency wind forcing is not required to explain the observed EKE.

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Takamasa Tsubouchi, Sheldon Bacon, Yevgeny Aksenov, Alberto C. Naveira Garabato, Agnieszka Beszczynska-Möller, Edmond Hansen, Laura de Steur, Beth Curry, and Craig M. Lee

Abstract

This paper presents the first estimate of the seasonal cycle of ocean and sea ice heat and freshwater (FW) fluxes around the Arctic Ocean boundary. The ocean transports are estimated primarily using 138 moored instruments deployed in September 2005–August 2006 across the four main Arctic gateways: Davis, Fram, and Bering Straits, and the Barents Sea Opening (BSO). Sea ice transports are estimated from a sea ice assimilation product. Monthly velocity fields are calculated with a box inverse model that enforces mass and salt conservation. The volume transports in the four gateways in the period (annual mean ± 1 standard deviation) are −2.1 ± 0.7 Sv in Davis Strait, −1.1 ± 1.2 Sv in Fram Strait, 2.3 ± 1.2 Sv in the BSO, and 0.7 ± 0.7 Sv in Bering Strait (1 Sv ≡ 106 m3 s−1). The resulting ocean and sea ice heat and FW fluxes are 175 ± 48 TW and 204 ± 85 mSv, respectively. These boundary fluxes accurately represent the annual means of the relevant surface fluxes. The ocean heat transport variability derives from velocity variability in the Atlantic Water layer and temperature variability in the upper part of the water column. The ocean FW transport variability is dominated by Bering Strait velocity variability. The net water mass transformation in the Arctic entails a freshening and cooling of inflowing waters by 0.62 ± 0.23 in salinity and 3.74° ± 0.76°C in temperature, respectively, and a reduction in density by 0.23 ± 0.20 kg m−3. The boundary heat and FW fluxes provide a benchmark dataset for the validation of numerical models and atmospheric reanalysis products.

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Igor V. Polyakov, Vladimir A. Alexeev, Igor M. Ashik, Sheldon Bacon, Agnieszka Beszczynska-Möller, Eddy C. Carmack, Igor A. Dmitrenko, Louis Fortier, Jean-Claude Gascard, Edmond Hansen, Jens Hölemann, Vladimir V. Ivanov, Takashi Kikuchi, Sergey Kirillov, Yueng-Djern Lenn, Fiona A. McLaughlin, Jan Piechura, Irina Repina, Leonid A. Timokhov, Waldemar Walczowski, and Rebecca Woodgate

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