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  1. Abstract

    Data from two moorings deployed at 166°W on the northern Chukchi shelf and slope from summer 2002 to fall 2004, as part of the Western Arctic Shelf‐Basin Interactions program, are analyzed to investigate the characteristics and variability of the flow in this region. The depth‐mean velocity at the outer‐shelf mooring is northeastward and bottom‐intensified, while that at the upper‐slope mooring is northwestward and surface‐intensified. This, together with results from a high resolution ocean and sea ice reanalysis, indicates that the outer‐shelf mooring sampled the seaward edge of the Chukchi Shelfbreak Jet, while the upper‐slope mooring sampled the shoreward edge of the Chukchi Slope Current. The coupled variability in velocity at both sites is related to the wind stress curl over the Chukchi Sea shelf, likely via Ekman dynamics and geostrophic set up, analogous to the dynamics of both currents closer to Barrow Canyon near 157°W. Hydrographic signals are analyzed to elucidate the origin of the water masses present at this location. It is argued that the annual appearance of Pacific‐origin warm water at the outer‐shelf (upper‐slope) mooring in late‐fall and winter originates from Herald (Barrow) Canyon some months earlier. Our results constitute the first robust evidence that the westward‐flowing Chukchi Slope Current persists this far west of Barrow Canyon.

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  2. Abstract

    The flow and transformation of warm, salty Atlantic‐origin water (AW) in the Arctic Ocean plays an important role in the global overturning circulation that helps regulate Earth's climate. The heat that it transports also impacts ice melt in different parts of the Arctic. This study uses data from a mooring array deployed across the shelf/slope of the Alaskan Beaufort Sea from 2002–2004 to investigate the flow of AW. A short‐lived “rebound jet” of AW on the upper continental slope regularly follows wind‐driven upwelling events. A total of 57 such events, lasting on average 3 days each, occurred over the 2 year period. As the easterly wind subsides, the rebound jet quickly spins up while the isopycnals continue to slump from their upwelled state. The strength of the jet is related to the cross‐slope isopycnal displacement, which in turn is dependent on the magnitude of the wind, in line with previous modeling. Seaward of the rebound jet, the offshore‐most mooring of the array measured the onshore branch of the AW boundary flowing eastward in the Canada Basin. However, the signature of the boundary current was only evident in the second year of the mooring timeseries. We suspect that this is due to the varying influence of the Beaufort Gyre in the two years, associated with a change in pattern of the wind stress curl that helps drive the gyre.

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  3. Abstract

    A region of exceptionally high macrofaunal benthic biomass exists in Barrow Canyon, implying a carbon export process that is locally concentrated. Here we offer an explanation for this benthic “hotspot” using shipboard data together with a set of dynamical equations. Repeat occupations of the Distributed Biological Observatory transect in Barrow Canyon reveal that when the northward flow is strong and the density front in the canyon is sharp, plumes of fluorescence and oxygen extend from the pycnocline to the seafloor in the vicinity of the hotspot. By solving the quasi‐geostrophic omega equation with an analytical flow field fashioned after the observations, we diagnose the vertical velocity in the canyon. This reveals that, as the along stream flow converges into the canyon, it drives a secondary circulation cell with strong downwelling on the cyclonic side of the northward flow. The downwelling quickly advects material from the pycnocline to the seafloor in a vertical plume analogous to those seen in the observations. The plume occurs only when the phytoplankton reside in the pycnocline, since the near‐surface vertical velocity is weak, also consistent with the observations. Using a wind‐based proxy to represent the strength of the northward flow and hence the pumping, in conjunction with a satellite‐derived phytoplankton source function, we construct a time series of carbon supply to the bottom of Barrow Canyon.

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  4. Abstract

    Recent measurements and modeling indicate that roughly half of the Pacific-origin water exiting the Chukchi Sea shelf through Barrow Canyon forms a westward-flowing current known as the Chukchi Slope Current (CSC), yet the trajectory and fate of this current is presently unknown. In this study, through the combined use of shipboard velocity data and information from five profiling floats deployed as quasi-Lagrangian particles, we delve further into the trajectory and the fate of the CSC. During the period of observation, from early September to early October 2018, the CSC progressed far to the north into the Chukchi Borderland. The northward excursion is believed to result from the current negotiating Hanna Canyon on the Chukchi slope, consistent with potential vorticity dynamics. The volume transport of the CSC, calculated using a set of shipboard transects, decreased from approximately 2 Sv (1 Sv ≡ 106m3s−1) to near zero over a period of 4 days. This variation can be explained by a concomitant change in the wind stress curl over the Chukchi shelf from positive to negative. After turning northward, the CSC was disrupted and four of the five floats veered offshore, with one of the floats permanently leaving the current. It is hypothesized that the observed disruption was due to an anticyclonic eddy interacting with the CSC, which has been observed previously. These results demonstrate that, at times, the CSC can get entrained into the Beaufort Gyre.

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  5. Abstract

    From late‐summer 2013 to late‐summer 2014, a total of 20 moorings were maintained on the eastern Chukchi Sea shelf as part of five independent field programs. This provided the opportunity to analyze an extensive set of timeseries to obtain a broad view of the mean and seasonally varying hydrography and circulation over the course of the year. Year‐long mean bottom temperatures reflected the presence of the strong coastal circulation pathway, while mean bottom salinities were influenced by polynya/lead activity along the coast. The timing of the warm water appearance in spring/summer is linked to advection along the various flow pathways. The timing of the cold water appearance in fall/winter was not reflective of advection nor related to the time of freeze‐up. Near the latitude of Barrow Canyon, the cold water was accompanied by freshening. A one‐dimensional mixed‐layer model demonstrates that wind mixing, due to synoptic storms, overturns the water column resulting in the appearance of the cold water. The loitering pack ice in the region, together with warm southerly winds, melted ice and provided an intermittent source of fresh water that was mixed to depth according to the model. Farther north, the ambient stratification prohibits wind‐driven overturning, hence the cold water arrives from the south. The circulation during the warm and cold months of the year is different in both strength and pattern. Our study highlights the multitude of factors involved in setting the seasonal cycle of hydrography and circulation on the Chukchi shelf.

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  6. Abstract

    A high‐resolution regional ocean model together with moored hydrographic and velocity measurements is used to identify the pathways and mechanisms by which Pacific water, modified over the Chukchi shelf, crosses the shelf break into the Canada Basin. Most of the Pacific water flowing into the Arctic Ocean through Bering Strait enters the Canada Basin through Barrow Canyon. Strong advection allows the water to cross the shelf break and exit the shelf. Wind forcing plays little role in this process. Some of the outflowing water from Barrow Canyon flows to the east into the Beaufort Sea; however, approximately 0.4 to 0.5 Sv turns to the west forming the newly identified Chukchi Slope Current. This transport occurs at all times of year, channeling both summer and winter waters from the shelf to the Canada Basin. The model indicates that approximately 75% of this water was exposed to the mixed layer within the Chukchi Sea, while the remaining 25% was able to cross the shelf during the stratified summer before convection commences in late fall. We view the Sv of the Chukchi Slope Current as replacing Beaufort Gyre water that would have come from the east in the absence of the cross‐topography flow in Barrow Canyon. The weak eastward flow on the Beaufort slope is also consistent with the local disruption of the Beaufort Gyre by the Barrow Canyon outflow.

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  7. Abstract

    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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  8. Abstract

    Radium isotopes are produced through the decay of thorium in sediments and are soluble in seawater; thus, they are useful for tracing ocean boundary‐derived inputs to the ocean. Here we apply radium isotopes to study continental inputs and water residence times in the Arctic Ocean, where land‐ocean interactions are currently changing in response to rising air and sea temperatures. We present the distributions of radium isotopes measured on the 2015 U.S. GEOTRACES transect in the Western Arctic Ocean and combine this data set with historical radium observations in the Chukchi Sea and Canada Basin. The highest activities of radium‐228 were observed in the Transpolar Drift and the Chukchi shelfbreak jet, signaling that these currents are heavily influenced by interactions with shelf sediments. The ventilation of the halocline with respect to inputs from the Chukchi shelf occurs on time scales of ≤19–23 years. Intermediate water ventilation time scales for the Makarov and Canada Basins were determined to be ~20 and >30 years, respectively, while deep water residence times in these basins were on the order of centuries. The radium distributions and residence times described in this study serve as a baseline for future studies investigating the impacts of climate change on the Arctic Ocean.

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  9. Abstract

    Shifting baselines in the Arctic atmosphere‐sea ice‐ocean system have significant potential to alter biogeochemical cycling and ecosystem dynamics. In particular, the impact of increased open water duration on lower trophic level productivity and biological CO2sequestration is poorly understood. Using high‐resolution observations of surface seawater dissolved O2/Ar andpCO2collected in the Pacific Arctic in October 2011 and 2012, we evaluate spatial variability in biological metabolic status (autotrophy vs heterotrophy) as constrained by O2/Ar saturation (∆O2/Ar) as well as the relationship between net biological production and the sea‐air gradient ofpCO2(∆pCO2). We find a robust relationship between∆pCO2and∆O2/Ar(correlation coefficient of −0.74 and −0.61 for 2011 and 2012, respectively), which suggests that biological production in the late open water season is an important determinant of the air‐sea CO2gradient at a timeframe of maximal ocean uptake for CO2in this region. Patchiness in biological production as indicated by∆O2/Arsuggests spatially variable nutrient supply mechanisms supporting late season growth amidst a generally strongly stratified and nutrient‐limited condition.

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  10. Abstract

    A striking example is presented of a newly observed phenomenon in the ice‐covered Arctic Ocean that appears to be a consequence of changes in the physical forcing. In summer 2011, a massive phytoplankton bloom was observed north of the Bering Strait, between Russia and the United States, underneath pack ice that was a meter thick—in conditions previously thought to be inconducive for harboring such blooms. It is demonstrated that the changing ice cover, in concert with the resulting heat exchange between the atmosphere and ocean, likely led to this paradigm shift at the base of the food chain by altering the supply of nutrients and sunlight. Such early‐season under‐ice blooms have the potential to profoundly alter the Arctic food web.

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