Circulation of summer Pacific halocline water in the Arctic Ocean

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Abstract

[1] We present an analysis of Arctic Ocean hydrographic and sea ice observations from the 1990s, with a focus on the circulation of water that originates in the North Pacific Ocean. Previous studies have shown the presence of two varieties of relatively warm “summer halocline water” in the vicinity of the Chukchi Sea, i.e., the relatively fresh Alaskan Coastal Water (ACW) and the relatively saltier summer Bering Sea Water (sBSW). Here we extend these studies by tracing the circulation of these waters downstream into the Arctic Ocean. We find that ACW is generally most evident in the southern Beaufort Gyre, while sBSW is strongest in the northern portion of the Beaufort Gyre and along the Transpolar Drift Stream. We find that this separation is most extreme during the early mid-1990s, when the Arctic Oscillation was at historically high index values. This leads us to speculate that the outflow to the North Atlantic Ocean (through the Canadian Archipelago and Fram Strait) may be similarly separated. As Arctic Oscillation index values fell during the later 1990s, ACW and sBSW began to overlap in their regions of influence. These changes are evident in the area north of Ellesmere Island, where the influence of sBSW is highly correlated, with a 3-year lag, with the Arctic Oscillation index. We also note the presence of winter Bering Sea Water (wBSW), which underlies the summer varieties. All together, this brings the number of distinct Pacific water types in our Arctic Ocean inventory to three: ACW, sBSW, and wBSW.

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