Arctic sea surface height variability and change from satellite radar altimetry and GRACE, 2003–2014

Thursday, 17 December 2015: 13:55
3007 (Moscone West)
Thomas Armitage1, Sheldon Bacon2, Andy Ridout1, Sam F. Thomas3, Yevgeny Aksenov4 and Duncan Wingham1, (1)University College London, London, United Kingdom, (2)National Oceanography Center, Liverpool, United Kingdom, (3)center for Polar Observation and Modelling at UCL, polar, London, United Kingdom, (4)National Oceanography Center, Liverpool, L3, United Kingdom
Sea surface height (SSH) is poorly observed in the Arctic due to limitations of conventional observation techniques. We present the first basin-wide, monthly estimates of Arctic Ocean SSH from satellite radar altimetry and combine this with GRACE ocean mass to estimate steric height. The large seasonal cycle of Arctic SSH (amplitude ~4cm) is dominated by seasonal freshwater fluxes and peaks in October-November. Overall, the annual mean steric height increases by 2.3±1.1cm between 2003-2012 before falling to ca. 2003 levels between 2012-2014. The total secular change in SSH between 2003-2014 is then dominated by a 1.8±0.6cm net increase in ocean mass. The well-documented doming of SSH in the Beaufort Sea is revealed by Empirical Orthogonal Function analysis to be concurrent with SSH reductions in the Siberian Arctic. Ocean storage flux estimates from altimetry agree well with high-resolution modelled results, demonstrating the potential for altimetry to elucidate the Arctic hydrological cycle. We also examine changes in Arctic Ocean geostrophic circulation and compare this with sea ice drift and atmospheric circulation. There is an increase in ocean geostrophic circulation around the Beaufort Gyre in late 2007, a year that saw large reductions in multiyear sea ice coverage in the Canadian Arctic as well as strong wintertime atmopheric forcing.