Atmospheric vorticity sets the basin-scale circulation in Hudson Bay

Igor A. Dmitrenko, Paul G. Myers, Sergei A. Kirillov, David G. Babb, Denis L. Volkov, Jennifer V. Lukovich, Ran Tao, Jens K. Ehn, Kevin Sydor, David G. Barber

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Hudson Bay of northern Canada receives upward of 700 km3 of river discharge annually. Cyclonic water circulation in Hudson Bay transports this massive volume of riverine water along the coast toward Hudson Strait and into the Labrador Sea. However, synoptic, seasonal and interannual variability of the freshwater transport in Hudson Bay remains unclear. Using yearlong observations of current velocity profiles, collected from oceanographic moorings deployed in western Hudson Bay from September 2016 to September/October 2017, we examined the role of atmospheric forcing on circulation and freshwater transport in the Bay. Our analysis reveals that the along-shore southeastward current through western Hudson Bay was amplified through the entire water column in response to winds generated by cyclones passing over Hudson Bay toward Baffin Bay and/or the Labrador Sea. An atmospheric vorticity index was used to describe the atmospheric forcing and found to correlate with sea surface height and along-shore currents. We showed that a surface Ekman on-shore transport increases sea surface heights along the coast, producing a cross-slope pressure gradient that drives an along-shore southeastward flow, in the same direction as the wind. Expanding our observations to the bay-wide scale, we confirmed this process of wind-driven water dynamics with (1) satellite altimetry measurements and (2) ocean model simulations. Ultimately, we find that cyclonic wind forcing amplifies cyclonic water circulation in Hudson Bay facilitating the along-shore freshwater transport to Hudson Strait. During periods of positive atmospheric vorticity, this forcing can reduce the residence time of riverine water in Hudson Bay.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number049
Issue number1
StatePublished - Nov 23 2020


  • Atmospheric vorticity
  • Cyclonic water circulation
  • Hudson Bay
  • Velocity measurements
  • Wind forcing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oceanography
  • Environmental Engineering
  • Ecology
  • Geotechnical Engineering and Engineering Geology
  • Geology
  • Atmospheric Science


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