Arctic Sea Ice Decline Significantly Contributed to the Unprecedented Liquid Freshwater Accumulation in the Beaufort Gyre of the Arctic Ocean


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Qiang.Wang [ at ] awi.de

Abstract

The Beaufort Gyre (BG) is the largest liquid freshwater reservoir of the Arctic Ocean. The liquid freshwater content (FWC) significantly increased in the BG in the 2000s during an anticyclonic wind regime and remained at a high level despite a transition to a more cyclonic state in the early 2010s. It is not well understood to what extent the rapid sea ice decline during this period has modified the trend and variability of the BG liquid FWC in the past decade. Our numerical simulations show that about 50% of the liquid freshwater accumulated in the BG in the 2000s can be explained by the sea ice decline caused by the Arctic atmospheric warming. Among this part of the FWC increase, 60% can be attributed to surface freshening associated with the reduction of the net sea ice thermodynamic growth rate, and 40% to changes in ocean circulation, which makes freshwater more accessible to the BG for storage. Thus, the rapid increase of the BG FWC in the 2000s was due to the concurrence of the anticyclonic wind regime and the high freshwater availability. We also find that if the Arctic sea ice had not declined, the liquid FWC in the BG would have shown a stronger decreasing tendency at the beginning of the 2010s owing to the cyclonic wind regime. From our results we argue that changes in sea ice conditions should be adequately taken into account when it comes to understanding and predicting variations of BG liquid FWC in a changing climate.



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ISI/Scopus peer-reviewed
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Published
Eprint ID
47417
DOI 10.1029/2018GL077901

Cite as
Wang, Q. , Wekerle, C. , Danilov, S. , Koldunov, N. , Sidorenko, D. , Sein, D. , Rabe, B. and Jung, T. (2018): Arctic Sea Ice Decline Significantly Contributed to the Unprecedented Liquid Freshwater Accumulation in the Beaufort Gyre of the Arctic Ocean , Geophysical Research Letters, 45 , pp. 4956-4964 . doi: 10.1029/2018GL077901


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