How well does wind speed predict air-sea gas transfer in the sea ice zone? A synthesis of radon deficit profiles in the upper water column of the Arctic Ocean Academic Article uri icon


  • We present 34 profiles of radon-deficit from the ice-ocean boundary layer of the Beaufort Sea. Including these 34, there are presently 58 published radon-deficit estimates of air-sea gas transfer velocity (k) in the Arctic Ocean; 52 of these estimates were derived from water covered by 10% sea ice or more. The average value of k collected since 2011 is 4.0?±?1.2 m d?1. This exceeds the quadratic wind speed prediction of weighted kws?=?2.85 m d?1 with mean-weighted wind speed of 6.4 m s?1. We show how ice cover changes the mixed-layer radon budget, and yields an “effective gas transfer velocity.” We use these 58 estimates to statistically evaluate the suitability of a wind speed parameterization for k, when the ocean surface is ice covered. Whereas the six profiles taken from the open ocean indicate a statistically good fit to wind speed parameterizations, the same parameterizations could not reproduce k from the sea ice zone. We conclude that techniques for estimating k in the open ocean cannot be similarly applied to determine k in the presence of sea ice. The magnitude of k through gaps in the ice may reach high values as ice cover increases, possibly as a result of focused turbulence dissipation at openings in the free surface. These 58 profiles are presently the most complete set of estimates of k across seasons and variable ice cover; as dissolved tracer budgets they reflect air-sea gas exchange with no impact from air-ice gas exchange.

publication date

  • May 5, 2017