The seasonal variability of the Arctic Ocean Ekman transport and its role in the mixed layer heat and salt fluxes
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The oceanic Ekman transport and pumping are among the most important parameters in studying the ocean general circulation and its variability. Upwelling due to the Ekman transport divergence has been identified as a leading mechanism for the seasonal to interannual variability of the upper-ocean heat content in many parts of the World Ocean, especially along coasts and the equator. Meanwhile, the Ekman pumping is the primary mechanism that drives basin-scale circulations in subtropical and subpolar oceans. In those ice-free oceans, the Ekman transport and pumping rate are calculated using the surface wind stress. In the ice-covered Arctic Ocean, the surface momentum flux comes from both air–water and ice–water stresses. The data required to compute these stresses are now available from satellite and buoy observations. But no basin-scale calculation of the Ekman transport in the Arctic Ocean has been done to date. In this study, a suite of satellite and buoy observations of ice motion, ice concentration, surface wind, etc., will be used to calculate the daily Ekman transport over the whole Arctic Ocean from 1978 to 2003 on a 25-km resolution. The seasonal variability and its relationship to the surface forcing fields will be examined. Meanwhile, the contribution of the Ekman transport to the seasonal fluxes of heat and salt to the Arctic Ocean mixed layer will be discussed. It was found that the greatest seasonal variations of Ekman transports of heat and salt occur in the southern Beaufort Sea in the fall and early winter when a strong anticyclonic wind and ice motion are present. The Ekman pumping velocity in the interior Beaufort Sea reaches as high as 10 cm day−1 in November while coastal upwelling is even stronger. The contributions of the Ekman transport to the heat and salt flux in the mixed layer are also considerable in the region.
Author Posting. © American Meteorological Society 2006. This article is posted here by permission of American Meteorological Society for personal use, not for redistribution. The definitive version was published in Journal of Climate 19 (2006): 5366–5387, doi:10.1175/JCLI3892.1.
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