Surface Drifter Observations From the Arctic Ocean's Beaufort Sea: Evidence for Submesoscale Dynamics

J. A. Mensa, M. L. Timmermans, I. E. Kozlov, W. J. Williams, Tamay M Ozgokmen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

6 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Position and velocity data are analyzed from a release of surface ocean drifters in the Arctic Ocean's Beaufort Sea in ice-free conditions. Position information is returned at sufficiently high frequency to allow for the investigation of surface-ocean flows ranging from around 0.5 km in lateral scale (submesoscale, SM, flows) to flows that are tens of kilometers in horizontal extent. Lagrangian statistics from the drifter release are analyzed in conjunction with Eulerian (ship-based) measurements of surface ocean temperature and salinity. Results show dynamics that are largely consistent with flows at similar scales in the midlatitude oceans. Horizontal wavenumber k spectra of density in the surface ocean scale as k-2, consistent with energetic SM flows. Lagrangian drifters indicate local dispersion in the surface ocean layer at horizontal scales smaller than 10 km, which confirms the presence of active submesoscale dynamics. Features at these scales give rise to lateral diffusivities (in the range 1-103 m2 s-1) of similar range to values inferred in the midlatitudes. Velocity structure functions present an energy-cascade inertial range at submesoscales with indication of a transition to a forward energy cascade at scales smaller than 1 km confirming the transition to 3-D turbulence. The active SM flow-field drives enhanced lateral and vertical fluxes in the Arctic Ocean mixed layer, which has first-order implications to the transport of heat, sea-ice floes, nutrients, and contaminants.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Oceans
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - Jan 1 2018

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Beaufort Sea (North America)
Beaufort Sea
Arctic Ocean
drifter
Arctic region
ocean surface
oceans
sea surface
temperate regions
cascades
ice floes
ice
Sea ice
ocean temperature
Ice
Cascade Mountain region
velocity structure
sea ice
diffusivity
flow field

Keywords

  • Arctic Ocean
  • Drifters
  • Submesoscale
  • Turbulence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Forestry
  • Oceanography
  • Aquatic Science
  • Ecology
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Soil Science
  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Earth-Surface Processes
  • Atmospheric Science
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Palaeontology

Cite this

Surface Drifter Observations From the Arctic Ocean's Beaufort Sea : Evidence for Submesoscale Dynamics. / Mensa, J. A.; Timmermans, M. L.; Kozlov, I. E.; Williams, W. J.; Ozgokmen, Tamay M.

In: Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans, 01.01.2018.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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