Modeling the seasonal variability of a coupled Arctic ice-ocean system


  • Sirpa Häkkinen,

  • George L. Mellor


Results from modeling studies of the ice-ocean system in the Arctic Basin and in the Norwegian-Greenland-Barents seas are presented. We used a three-dimensional coupled ice-ocean model developed at Princeton University. The ocean model applies the primitive equations and a second moment turbulence closure for turbulent mixing. The snow-ice model uses a three-level thermodynamic scheme which resembles Semtner's (1976a) model. Our conclusions based on the seasonal simulations are as follows. (1) Using monthly climatological surface heat flux and wind stress, the seasonal variability of the ice cover is quite realistic in that the thickest ice is located north of Greenland and the average ice thickness is about 3 m. The largest deviation between the simulated and observed ice cover is in the Greenland Sea where oceanic conditions determine the ice edge. Basically, the monthly climatological forcing does not result in strong enough mixing to bring sufficient heat from the deep ocean to keep the central Greenland Sea gyre ice free. The results improve for both the ice cover and ocean by invoking daily wind forcing for which we first chose year 1987. In the ocean model, the large mixing events associated with storm passages are resolved, and as a result, the overall oceanic structure in the Greenland Sea appears to be more realistic. However, no deep convection takes place in the model during 1987 which is likely the result of diminished storm activity in the northern part of the Greenland Sea. The ice thickness field appears to be very anomalous 1987, so an experiment with 1986 daily wind forcing was also done, which resulted in an ice thickness field similar to some reported from other ice models. (2) Both monthly and daily surface forcing result in a similar behavior of the Atlantic waters in the Arctic Basin. The Atlantic waters circulate at about the observed level, between 400 and 600 m. The survival of the Atlantic waters in the basin depends strongly on the heat loss through the ice cover, and it appears that too much heat is lost on the Eurasian side through the ice because the simulated Atlantic waters are too cool by about 0.2–0.5°C. (3) For the monthly climatology case, a large amount of cold and salty water enters the Eurasia Basin from the Kara and Laptev seas area and finds its way toward the Canada Basin. This water mass appears to result from ice formation in the Kara and Laptev seas. When applying the daily forcing, this deep salinity maximum disappears due to increased mixing on the shelves. Nevertheless, this suggests a mechanism within the Arctic Ocean as to why the deep Canada Basin is much saltier than the Eurasia Basin.