The Wrangel Island Polynya in early summer: Trends and relationships to other polynyas and the Beaufort Sea High



[1] Polynyas, regions of reduced sea ice concentration relative to their surroundings, are important features of the polar climate system in which enhanced fluxes of heat, moisture, and momentum can occur between the atmosphere and ocean. As such, they play a significant role in many atmospheric, oceanographic and biological processes. There are concerns that in a warming climate, in which there is a trend towards a reduction in sea ice cover, that the location, size and duration of many polynyas may change resulting in climatological and ecological impacts. In this paper, we identify an early summer manifestation of the Wrangel Island polynya that forms in the western Chuckchi Sea. We show that over the past 30 years there has been an increased frequency of occurrence as well as a doubling in the size of the polynya. The polynya is shown to form when there is an enhanced easterly flow over the Chukchi Sea that is associated with an anomalously intense Beaufort Sea High (BSH), a closed anti-cyclonic atmospheric circulation that forms over the Beaufort Sea. We also show that there has been a concomitant trend towards a more intense BSH over the same time period and we propose that this trend is responsible for the observed changes in the Wrangel Island polynya. Given its large and increasing size, the early summer polynya may also play an important and unaccounted role in the physical and biological oceanography of the western Chukchi Sea.