Shelfbreak current over the Canadian Beaufort Sea continental slope: Wind-driven events in January 2005

Igor A. Dmitrenko, Sergei A. Kirillov, Alexandre Forest, Yves Gratton, Denis L. Volkov, William J. Williams, Jennifer V. Lukovich, Claude Belanger, David G. Barber

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


The shelfbreak current over the Beaufort Sea continental slope is known to be one of the most energetic features of the Beaufort Sea hydrography. In January 2005, three oceanographic moorings deployed over the Canadian (eastern) Beaufort Sea continental slope simultaneously recorded two consecutive shelfbreak current events with along-slope eastward bottom-intensified flow up to 120 cm s-1. Both events were generated by the local wind forcing associated with two Pacific-born cyclones passing north of the Beaufort Sea continental slope toward the Canadian Archipelago. Over the mooring array, the associated westerly wind exceeded 15 m s-1. These two cyclones generated storm surges along the Beaufort Sea coast with sea surface height (SSH) rising up to 1.4 m following the two westerly wind maxima. We suggest that the westerly along-slope wind generated a surface Ekman onshore transport. The associated SSH increase over the shelf produced a cross-slope pressure gradient that drove an along-slope eastward geostrophic current, in the same direction as the wind. This wind-driven barotropic flow was superimposed on the background baroclinic bottom-intensified shelfbreak current that consequently amplified. Summer-fall satellite altimetry data for 1992-2013 show that the SSH gradient in the southeastern Beaufort Sea is enhanced over the upper continental slope in response to frequent storm surge events. Because the local wind forcing and/or sea-ice drift could not explain the reduction of sea-ice concentration over the Beaufort Sea continental slope in January 2005, we speculate that wind-driven sea level fluctuations may impact the sea-ice cover in winter.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2447-2468
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Oceans
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 2016


  • Beaufort Sea
  • continental slope
  • downwelling
  • mooring observations
  • shelfbreak currents
  • wind forcing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Geophysics
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Oceanography


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