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  1. Abstract The Arctic Ocean has seen a remarkable reduction in sea ice coverage, thickness and age since the 1980s. These changes are most pronounced in the Beaufort Sea, with a transition around 2007 from a regime dominated by multi-year sea ice to one with large expanses of open water during the summer. Using satellite-based observations of sea ice, an atmospheric reanalysis and a coupled ice-ocean model, we show that during the summers of 2020 and 2021, the Beaufort Sea hosted anomalously large concentrations of thick and old ice. We show that ice advection contributed to these anomalies, with 2020 dominated by eastward transport from the Chukchi Sea, and 2021 dominated by transport from the Last Ice Area to the north of Canada and Greenland. Since 2007, cool season (fall, winter, and spring) ice volume transport into the Beaufort Sea accounts for ~45% of the variability in early summer ice volume—a threefold increase from that associated with conditions prior to 2007. This variability is likely to impact marine infrastructure and ecosystems.
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available December 1, 2023
  2. Abstract

    The observed upper (0–50 m) Arctic Ocean warming since 1979 has been primarily attributed to anthropogenically driven changes in the high latitudes. Here, using both observational and modeling analyses, we demonstrate that a multiyear trend in the summertime large-scale atmospheric circulation, which we ascribe to internal variability, has played an important role in upper ocean warming in summer and fall over the past four decades due to sea ice-albedo effect induced by atmospheric dynamics. Nudging experiments in which the wind fields are constrained toward the observed state support this mechanism and suggest that the internal variability contribution to recent upper Arctic Ocean warming accounts for up to one quarter of warming over the past four decades and up to 60% of warming from 2000 to 2018. This suggests that climate models need to replicate this important internal process in order to realistically simulate Arctic Ocean temperature variability and trends.

  3. Abstract

    Recent progress in understanding Beaufort Gyre (BG) dynamics reveals an important role of ice‐ocean stress in stabilizing BG freshwater content (FWC) over seasonal to interannual timescales. But how the BG's stratification and FWC respond to surface forcing over decadal timescales has not been fully explored. Using a global ocean‐sea ice model, we partition the BG into upper, middle (halocline), and lower (thermocline) layers and perform a volume budget analysis over 1948–2017. We find that the BG's asymmetric geometry (with steep and tight isohalines over continental slopes relative to the deep basin) is key in determining the mean volume transport balance. We further find that a net Ekman suction during 1983–1995 causes the upper and middle layers to deflate isopycnally, while an enhanced Ekman pumping during 1996–2017 causes these layers to inflate both isopycnally and diapycnally, the latter via anomalous flux from the upper to the middle layer.

  4. Abstract

    The Arctic Ocean’s Wandel Sea is the easternmost sector of the Last Ice Area, where thick, old sea ice is expected to endure longer than elsewhere. Nevertheless, in August 2020 the area experienced record-low sea ice concentration. Here we use satellite data and sea ice model experiments to determine what caused this record sea ice minimum. In our simulations there was a multi-year sea-ice thinning trend due to climate change. Natural climate variability expressed as wind-forced ice advection and subsequent melt added to this trend. In spring 2020, the Wandel Sea had a mixture of both thin and—unusual for recent years—thick ice, but this thick ice was not sufficiently widespread to prevent the summer sea ice concentration minimum. With continued thinning, more frequent low summer sea ice events are expected. We suggest that the Last Ice Area, an important refuge for ice-dependent species, is less resilient to warming than previously thought.

  5. Free, publicly-accessible full text available July 1, 2024
  6. Abstract

    The Beaufort Gyre (BG), the largest Arctic Ocean freshwater reservoir, has drastically increased its liquid freshwater content by 40% in the past two decades. If released within a short period, the excess freshwater could potentially impact the large-scale ocean circulation by freshening the upper subpolar North Atlantic. Here, we track BG-sourced freshwater using passive tracers in a global ocean sea-ice model and show that this freshwater exited the Arctic mostly through the Canadian Arctic Archipelago, rather than Fram Strait, during an historical release event in 1983–1995. The Labrador Sea is the most affected region in the subpolar North Atlantic, with a freshening of 0.2 psu on the western shelves and 0.4 psu in the Labrador Current. Given that the present BG freshwater content anomaly is twice the historical analog studied here, the impact of a future rapid release on Labrador Sea salinity could be significant, easily exceeding similar fluxes from Greenland meltwater.

  7. Free, publicly-accessible full text available May 1, 2024
  8. Abstract Arctic sea surface temperatures (SSTs) are estimated mostly from satellite sea ice concentration (SIC) estimates. In regions with sea ice the SST is the temperature of open water or of the water under the ice. A number of different proxy SST estimates based on SIC have been developed. In recent years more Arctic quality-control buoy SSTs have become available, allowing better validation of different estimates and the development of improved proxy estimates. Here proxy SSTs from different approaches are evaluated and an improved proxy SST method is shown. The improved proxy SSTs were tested in an SST analysis, and showed reduced bias and random errors compared to the Arctic buoy SSTs. Almost all reduction in errors is in the warm melt season. In the cold season the SIC is typically high and all estimates tend to have low errors. The improved method will be incorporated into an operational SST analysis.