Seasonal and interannual variability of downwelling in the Beaufort Sea Academic Article uri icon


  • In this paper, we examine the seasonal and interannual to decadal variability of oceanic downwelling in the Beaufort Sea. The surface wind stress is the primary driver for variability in the upper Arctic Ocean and sea ice. The seasonal variability of the surface wind over the western Arctic is strongly influenced by a high sea level pressure center that emerges in the fall and diminishes in the summer. The wind stress and sea ice velocity are both anticyclonic from fall to spring and thus force an upwelling along the Alaskan and Canadian coast and downwelling in the interior Beaufort Sea. The upwelling and downwelling varied significantly on the interannual to decadal time scales from 1979 to 2006. There was no significant correlation between the upwelling/downwelling rate in the Beaufort Sea and the Arctic Oscillation index over this 28 year period. The coastal upwelling and interior downwelling in the Beaufort Sea had gradually intensified from 1979 to 2006. This change was almost entirely due to the increase in sea ice velocity according to three additional sensitivity calculations. The anticyclonic ice velocity over the western Arctic Ocean accelerated in the 28 year period, and the acceleration was not driven solely by the wind stress. The geostrophic wind condition was actually similar between 1979–1986 and 1997–2004. However, the ice velocity was much greater in the latter period. We hypothesize that the change in ice dynamics (thinner and less areal coverage) was responsible for the change of ice velocity.

publication date

  • December 11, 2009