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Title: Shelfbreak Downwelling in the Alaskan Beaufort Sea

The oceanographic response and atmospheric forcing associated with downwelling along the Alaskan Beaufort Sea shelf/slope is described using mooring data collected from August 2002 to September 2004, along with meteorological time series, satellite data, and reanalysis fields. In total, 55 downwelling events are identified with peak occurrence in July and August. Downwelling is initiated by cyclonic low‐pressure systems displacing the Beaufort High and driving westerly winds over the region. The shelfbreak jet responds by accelerating to the east, followed by a depression of isopycnals along the outer shelf and slope. The storms last 3.25 ± 1.80 days, at which point conditions relax toward their mean state. To determine the effect of sea ice on the oceanographic response, the storms are classified into four ice seasons: open water, partial ice, full ice, and fast ice (immobile). For a given wind strength, the largest response occurs during partial ice cover, while the most subdued response occurs in the fast ice season. Over the two‐year study period, the winds were strongest during the open water season; thus, the shelfbreak jet intensified the most during this period and the cross‐stream Ekman flow was largest. During downwelling, the cold water fluxed off the shelf ventilates the upper halocline of the Canada Basin. The storms approach the Beaufort Sea along three distinct pathways: a northerly route from the high Arctic, a westerly route from northern Siberia, and a southerly route from south of Bering Strait. Differences in the vertical structure of the storms are presented as well.

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Author(s) / Creator(s):
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DOI PREFIX: 10.1029
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans
Page Range / eLocation ID:
p. 7201-7225
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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