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Igor V. Polyakov, Laurie Padman, Y.-D. Lenn, Andrey Pnyushkov, Robert Rember, and Vladimir V. Ivanov

Abstract

The diffusive layering (DL) form of double-diffusive convection cools the Atlantic Water (AW) as it circulates around the Arctic Ocean. Large DL steps, with heights of homogeneous layers often greater than 10 m, have been found above the AW core in the Eurasian Basin (EB) of the eastern Arctic. Within these DL staircases, heat and salt fluxes are determined by the mechanisms for vertical transport through the high-gradient regions (HGRs) between the homogeneous layers. These HGRs can be thick (up to 5 m and more) and are frequently complex, being composed of multiple small steps or continuous stratification. Microstructure data collected in the EB in 2007 and 2008 are used to estimate heat fluxes through large steps in three ways: using the measured dissipation rate in the large homogeneous layers; utilizing empirical flux laws based on the density ratio and temperature step across HGRs after scaling to account for the presence of multiple small DL interfaces within each HGR; and averaging estimates of heat fluxes computed separately for individual small interfaces (as laminar conductive fluxes), small convective layers (via dissipation rates within small DL layers), and turbulent patches (using dissipation rate and buoyancy) within each HGR. Diapycnal heat fluxes through HGRs evaluated by each method agree with each other and range from ~2 to ~8 W m−2, with an average flux of ~3–4 W m−2. These large fluxes confirm a critical role for the DL instability in cooling and thickening the AW layer as it circulates around the eastern Arctic Ocean.

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Igor A. Dmitrenko, Sergey A. Kirillov, Vladimir V. Ivanov, Bert Rudels, Nuno Serra, and Nikolay V. Koldunov

Abstract

Historical hydrographic data (1940s–2010) show a distinct cross-slope difference of the lower halocline water (LHW) over the Laptev Sea continental margins. Over the slope, the LHW is on average warmer and saltier by 0.2°C and 0.5 psu, respectively, relative to the off-slope LHW. The LHW temperature time series constructed from the on-slope historical records are related to the temperature of the Atlantic Water (AW) boundary current transporting warm water from the North Atlantic Ocean. In contrast, the on-slope LHW salinity is linked to the sea ice and wind forcing over the potential upstream source region in the Barents and northern Kara Seas, as also indicated by hydrodynamic model results. Over the Laptev Sea continental margin, saltier LHW favors weaker salinity stratification that, in turn, contributes to enhanced vertical mixing with underlying AW.

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Vladimir Ivanov, Vladimir Alexeev, Nikolay V. Koldunov, Irina Repina, Anne Britt Sandø, Lars Henrik Smedsrud, and Alexander Smirnov

Abstract

Broad, long-living, ice-free areas in midwinter northeast of Svalbard between 2011 and 2014 are investigated. The formation of these persistent and reemerging anomalies is linked, hypothetically, with the increased seasonality of Arctic sea ice cover, enabling an enhanced influence of oceanic heat on sea ice and, in particular, heat transported by Atlantic Water. The “memory” of ice-depleted conditions in summer is transferred to the fall season through excess heat content in the upper mixed layer, which in turn transfers to midwinter via thinner and younger ice. This thinner ice is more fragile and mobile, thus facilitating the formation of polynyas and leads. When openings in ice cover form along the Atlantic Water pathway, weak density stratification at the mixed layer base supports the development of thermohaline convection, which further entrains warm and salty water from deeper layers. Convection-induced upward heat flux from the Atlantic layer retards ice formation, either keeping ice thickness low or blocking ice formation entirely. Certain stages of this chain of events have been examined in a region north of Svalbard and Franz Joseph Land, between 80° and 83°N and 15° and 60°E, where the top hundred meters of Atlantic inflow through the Fram Strait cools and freshens rapidly. Complementary research methods, including statistical analyses of observations and numerical modeling, are used to support the basic concept that the recently observed retreat of sea ice northeast of Svalbard in winter may be explained by a positive feedback between summer ice decay and the growing influence of oceanic heat on a seasonal time scale.

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Igor V. Polyakov, Andrey V. Pnyushkov, Robert Rember, Vladimir V. Ivanov, Y.-D. Lenn, Laurie Padman, and Eddy C. Carmack

Abstract

A yearlong time series from mooring-based high-resolution profiles of water temperature and salinity from the Laptev Sea slope (2003–04; 2686-m depth; 78°26′N, 125°37′E) shows six remarkably persistent staircase layers in the depth range of ~140–350 m encompassing the upper Atlantic Water (AW) and lower halocline. Despite frequent displacement of isopycnal surfaces by internal waves and eddies and two strong AW warming pulses that passed through the mooring location in February and late August 2004, the layers preserved their properties. Using laboratory-derived flux laws for diffusive convection, the authors estimate the time-averaged diapycnal heat fluxes across the four shallower layers overlying the AW core to be ~8 W m−2. Temporal variability of these fluxes is strong, with standard deviations of ~3–7 W m−2. These fluxes provide a means for effective transfer of AW heat upward over more than a 100-m depth range toward the upper halocline. These findings suggest that double diffusion is an important mechanism influencing the oceanic heat fluxes that help determine the state of Arctic sea ice.

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Till M. Baumann, Igor V. Polyakov, Andrey V. Pnyushkov, Robert Rember, Vladimir V. Ivanov, Matthew B. Alkire, Ilona Goszczko, and Eddy C. Carmack

Abstract

The Eurasian Basin (EB) of the Arctic Ocean is subject to substantial seasonality. We here use data collected between 2013 and 2015 from six moorings across the continental slope in the eastern EB and identify three domains, each with its own unique seasonal cycle: 1) The upper ocean (<100 m), with seasonal temperature and salinity differences of Δθ = 0.16°C and ΔS = 0.17, is chiefly driven by the seasonal sea ice cycle. 2) The upper-slope domain is characterized by the influence of a hydrographic front that spans the water column around the ~750-m isobath. The domain features a strong temperature and moderate salinity seasonality (Δθ = 1.4°C; ΔS = 0.06), which is traceable down to ~600-m depth. Probable cause of this signal is a combination of along-slope advection of signals by the Arctic Circumpolar Boundary Current, local wind-driven upwelling, and a cross-slope shift of the front. 3) The lower-slope domain, located offshore of the front, with seasonality in temperature and salinity mainly confined to the halocline (Δθ = 0.83°C; ΔS = 0.11; ~100–200 m). This seasonal cycle can be explained by a vertical isopycnal displacement (ΔZ ~ 36 m), arguably as a baroclinic response to sea level changes. Available long-term oceanographic records indicate a recent amplification of the seasonal cycle within the halocline layer, possibly associated with the erosion of the halocline. This reduces the halocline’s ability to isolate the ocean surface layer and sea ice from the underlying Atlantic Water heat with direct implications for the evolution of Arctic sea ice cover and climate.

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Igor V. Polyakov, Tom P. Rippeth, Ilker Fer, Matthew B. Alkire, Till M. Baumann, Eddy C. Carmack, Randi Ingvaldsen, Vladimir V. Ivanov, Markus Janout, Sigrid Lind, Laurie Padman, Andrey V. Pnyushkov, and Robert Rember

Abstract

A 15-yr duration record of mooring observations from the eastern (>70°E) Eurasian Basin (EB) of the Arctic Ocean is used to show and quantify the recently increased oceanic heat flux from intermediate-depth (~150–900 m) warm Atlantic Water (AW) to the surface mixed layer and sea ice. The upward release of AW heat is regulated by the stability of the overlying halocline, which we show has weakened substantially in recent years. Shoaling of the AW has also contributed, with observations in winter 2017–18 showing AW at only 80 m depth, just below the wintertime surface mixed layer, the shallowest in our mooring records. The weakening of the halocline for several months at this time implies that AW heat was linked to winter convection associated with brine rejection during sea ice formation. This resulted in a substantial increase of upward oceanic heat flux during the winter season, from an average of 3–4 W m−2 in 2007–08 to >10 W m−2 in 2016–18. This seasonal AW heat loss in the eastern EB is equivalent to a more than a twofold reduction of winter ice growth. These changes imply a positive feedback as reduced sea ice cover permits increased mixing, augmenting the summer-dominated ice-albedo feedback.

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Igor V. Polyakov, Leonid A. Timokhov, Vladimir A. Alexeev, Sheldon Bacon, Igor A. Dmitrenko, Louis Fortier, Ivan E. Frolov, Jean-Claude Gascard, Edmond Hansen, Vladimir V. Ivanov, Seymour Laxon, Cecilie Mauritzen, Don Perovich, Koji Shimada, Harper L. Simmons, Vladimir T. Sokolov, Michael Steele, and John Toole

Abstract

Analysis of modern and historical observations demonstrates that the temperature of the intermediate-depth (150–900 m) Atlantic water (AW) of the Arctic Ocean has increased in recent decades. The AW warming has been uneven in time; a local ∼1°C maximum was observed in the mid-1990s, followed by an intervening minimum and an additional warming that culminated in 2007 with temperatures higher than in the 1990s by 0.24°C. Relative to climatology from all data prior to 1999, the most extreme 2007 temperature anomalies of up to 1°C and higher were observed in the Eurasian and Makarov Basins. The AW warming was associated with a substantial (up to 75–90 m) shoaling of the upper AW boundary in the central Arctic Ocean and weakening of the Eurasian Basin upper-ocean stratification. Taken together, these observations suggest that the changes in the Eurasian Basin facilitated greater upward transfer of AW heat to the ocean surface layer. Available limited observations and results from a 1D ocean column model support this surmised upward spread of AW heat through the Eurasian Basin halocline. Experiments with a 3D coupled ice–ocean model in turn suggest a loss of 28–35 cm of ice thickness after ∼50 yr in response to the 0.5 W m−2 increase in AW ocean heat flux suggested by the 1D model. This amount of thinning is comparable to the 29 cm of ice thickness loss due to local atmospheric thermodynamic forcing estimated from observations of fast-ice thickness decline. The implication is that AW warming helped precondition the polar ice cap for the extreme ice loss observed in recent years.

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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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