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Keywords:

  • polynya;
  • flux model;
  • Laptev Sea;
  • ice production

[1] A simple polynya flux model driven by standard atmospheric forcing is used to investigate the ice formation that took place during an exceptionally strong and consistent western New Siberian (WNS) polynya event in 2004 in the Laptev Sea. Whether formation rates are high enough to erode the stratification of the water column beneath is examined by adding the brine released during the 2004 polynya event to the average winter density stratification of the water body, preconditioned by summers with a cyclonic atmospheric forcing (comparatively weakly stratified water column). Beforehand, the model performance is tested through a simulation of a well-documented event in April 2008. Neglecting the replenishment of water masses by advection into the polynya area, we find the probability for the occurrence of density-driven convection down to the bottom to be low. Our findings can be explained by the distinct vertical density gradient that characterizes the area of the WNS polynya and the apparent lack of extreme events in the eastern Laptev Sea. The simple approach is expected to be sufficiently rigorous, since the simulated event is exceptionally strong and consistent, the ice production and salt rejection rates are likely to be overestimated, and the amount of salt rejected is distrusted over a comparatively weakly stratified water column. We conclude that the observed erosion of the halocline and formation of vertically mixed water layers during a WNS polynya event is therefore predominantly related to wind- and tidally driven turbulent mixing processes.