Observations of the ocean response to cold air outbreaks and polar lows over the Nordic Seas



[1] The impact of intense atmospheric mesocyclones—polar lows—on the ocean circulation at high latitudes, as well as the role of ocean feedbacks on the evolution of these atmospheric systems themselves, is under debate. Here, the upper ocean response to atmospheric forcing before, during, and after polar lows events over the Nordic Seas is studied. A set of 96 unique polar low tracks from 2002 to 2010 are collocated with satellite-based sea surface temperature and altimeter observations, and with surface drifter observations. The satellite data show systematic temperature and sea level drops and enhanced geostrophic kinetic energies over the days leading up to polar low events. These data however reveal little information about the ocean response to the polar lows themselves. The drifter observations largely agree with the satellite data on the response to synoptic conditions, but they also give indication of enhanced upper-ocean kinetic energies immediately following the passage of polar lows.