Connections among ice, runoff and atmospheric forcing in the Beaufort Gyre

Authors


Abstract

During SHEBA, thin ice and freshening of the Arctic Ocean surface in the Beaufort Sea led to speculation that perennial sea ice was disappearing [McPhee et al., 1998]. Since 1987, we have collected salinity, δ18O and Ba profiles near the initial SHEBA site and, in 1997, we ran a section out to SHEBA. Resolving fresh water into runoff and ice melt, we found a large background of Mackenzie River water with exceptional amounts in 1997 explaining much of the freshening at SHEBA. Ice melt went through a dramatic 4–6 m jump in the early 1990s coinciding with the atmospheric pressure field and sea-ice circulation becoming more cyclonic. The increase in sea-ice melt appears to be a thermal and mechanical response to a circulation regime shift. Should atmospheric circulation revert to the more anticyclonic mode, ice conditions can also be expected to revert although not necessarily to previous conditions.

Ancillary