Flow of winter-transformed Pacific water into the Western Arctic Academic Article uri icon


  • The dynamics of the flow of dense water through Barrow Canyon is investigated using data from a hydrographic survey in summer 2002. The focus is on the winter-transformed Bering water-the highest volumetric mode of winter water in the Chukchi Sea-which drains northward through the canyon in spring and summer. The transport of this water mass during the time of the survey was 0.2-0.3 Sv. As the layer flowed from the head of the canyon to the mouth, it sank, decelerated, and stretched. Strong cyclonic relative vorticity was generated on the seaward side of the jet, which compensated for the stretching. This adjustment was incomplete, however, in that it did not extend across the entire current, possibly because of internal mixing due to shear instabilities. The resulting vorticity structure of the flow at the canyon mouth was conducive for baroclinic instability and eddy formation. Multiple eddies of winter-transformed Bering water were observed along the Chukchi-Beaufort shelfbreak. Those to the west of Barrow Canyon were in the process of being spawned by the eastward-flowing shelfbreak current emanating from Herald Canyon, while the single eddy observed to the east originated from the Barrow Canyon outflow. It is argued that such an eddy formation is a major source of the ubiquitous cold-core anticyclones observed historically throughout the Canada Basin. Implications for the ventilation of the upper halocline of the Western Arctic are discussed. (c) 2005 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

publication date

  • December 2005