Wind-driven freshwater buildup and release in the Beaufort Gyre constrained by mesoscale eddies
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Recently, the Beaufort Gyre has accumulated over 20,000 km3 of freshwater in response to strong anticyclonic atmospheric winds that have prevailed over the gyre for almost two decades. Here we explore key physical processes affecting the accumulation and release of freshwater within an idealized eddy-resolving model of the Beaufort Gyre. We demonstrate that a realistic halocline can be achieved when its deepening tendency due to Ekman pumping is counteracted by the cumulative action of mesoscale eddies. Based on this balance, we derive analytical scalings for the depth of the halocline and its spin-up time scale and emphasize their explicit dependence on eddy dynamics. Our study further suggests that the Beaufort Gyre is currently in a state of high sensitivity to atmospheric winds. However, an intensification of surface stress would inevitably lead to a saturation of the freshwater content—a constraint inherently set by the intricacies of the mesoscale eddy dynamics.
Author Posting. © American Geophysical Union, 2016. This article is posted here by permission of American Geophysical Union for personal use, not for redistribution. The definitive version was published in Geophysical Research Letters 43 (2016): 273–282, doi:10.1002/2015GL065957.
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