Observations of internal wave generation in the seasonally ice-free Arctic

Abstract

[1] The Arctic is generally considered a low energy ocean. Using mooring data from the northern Chukchi Sea, we confirm that this is mainly because of sea-ice impeding input of wind energy into the ocean. When sea-ice is present, even strong storms do not induce significant oceanic response. However, during ice-free seasons, local storms drive strong inertial currents (>20 cm/s) that propagate throughout the water column and significantly deepen the surface mixed layer. The large vertical shear associated with summer inertial motions suggests a dominant role for localized and seasonal vertical mixing in Arctic Ocean dynamics. Our results imply that recent extensive summer sea-ice retreat will lead to significantly increased internal wave generation especially over the shelves and also possibly over deep waters. This internal wave activity will likely dramatically increase upper-layer mixing in large areas of the previously quiescent Arctic, with important ramifications for ecosystems and ocean dynamics. Citation: Rainville, L., and R. A. Woodgate (2009), Observations of internal wave generation in the seasonally icefree Arctic, Geophys. Res. Lett., 36, L23604, doi:10.1029/ 2009GL041291.

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