Two Configurations of the Western Arctic Shelfbreak Current in Summer
Author(s)Von Appen, Wilken-Jon; Pickart, Robert S.
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Data from a closely spaced array of moorings situated across the Beaufort Sea shelfbreak at 152°W are used to study the Western Arctic Shelfbreak Current, with emphasis on its configuration during the summer season. Two dynamically distinct states of the current are revealed in the absence of wind, with each lasting approximately one month. The first is a surface-intensified shelfbreak jet transporting warm and buoyant Alaskan Coastal Water in late summer. This is the eastward continuation of the Alaskan Coastal Current. It is both baroclinically and barotropically unstable and hence capable of forming the surface-intensified warm-core eddies observed in the southern Beaufort Sea. The second configuration, present during early summer, is a bottom-intensified shelfbreak current advecting weakly stratified Chukchi Summer Water. It is baroclinically unstable and likely forms the middepth warm-core eddies present in the interior basin. The mesoscale instabilities extract energy from the mean flow such that the surface-intensified jet should spin down over an e-folding distance of 300 km beyond the array site, whereas the bottom-intensified configuration should decay within 150 km. This implies that Pacific Summer Water does not extend far into the Canadian Beaufort Sea as a well-defined shelfbreak current. In contrast, the Pacific Winter Water configuration of the shelfbreak jet is estimated to decay over a much greater distance of approximately 1400 km, implying that it should reach the first entrance to the Canadian Arctic Archipelago.
DepartmentMassachusetts Institute of Technology. Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences
Journal of Physical Oceanography
American Meteorological Society
von Appen, Wilken-Jon, and Robert S. Pickart. “Two Configurations of the Western Arctic Shelfbreak Current in Summer.” Journal of Physical Oceanography 42.3 (2012): 329–351. © 2012 American Meteorological Society
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