Momentum Fluxes Across the Air-Ice-Ocean Interface in the Beaufort Sea

Samuel Brenner1, Luc Rainville1, Jim Thomson1, Jennifer A MacKinnon2 and Craig Lee1, (1)Applied Physics Laboratory, University of Washington, Seattle, WA, United States, (2)Scripps Institution of Oceanography, La Jolla, CA, United States
Increasing extent and duration of seasonally ice-free area in the western Arctic Ocean suggests increased air-sea coupling, specifically fluxes of momentum and heat between the lower atmosphere and the upper ocean. The dependence of these fluxes on ice concentration and its dynamical characteristics is still uncertain. As part of the Stratified Ocean Dynamics of the Arctic (SODA) project, year-long time series of upper-ocean velocity profiles were obtained across a range of ice conditions and are used to infer momentum fluxes. We consider the structure of observed current profiles as a function of sea state and ice cover. During the summer and in open water with minimal stratification, the wind forcing is in local equilibrium with surface gravity waves, and there is a direct transfer of momentum from the atmosphere to the upper ocean. The presence of ice modifies the momentum budget through both the inclusion of ice-atmosphere and ice-ocean stresses, and by damping short surface gravity waves and thus changing the surface roughness that the atmosphere acts upon. Ice presence is also associated with increased near-surface stratification, which can act to decouple the sub-surface ocean from atmospheric forcing. Our observations show frequent decoupling of a thin surface layer (<10 m depth), including case studies in which the relatively fresh surface waters formed by “ice puddles” have entirely different motion from the relatively salty water a few meters below. Ice formation in the fall affects both the ocean stratification and the ice characteristics, leading to competing effects affecting momentum transfer. Initial results across the annual cycle are presented.