Research ArticleOCEANOGRAPHY

Warming of the interior Arctic Ocean linked to sea ice losses at the basin margins

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Science Advances  29 Aug 2018:
Vol. 4, no. 8, eaat6773
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aat6773

Abstract

Arctic Ocean measurements reveal a near doubling of ocean heat content relative to the freezing temperature in the Beaufort Gyre halocline over the past three decades (1987–2017). This warming is linked to anomalous solar heating of surface waters in the northern Chukchi Sea, a main entryway for halocline waters to join the interior Beaufort Gyre. Summer solar heat absorption by the surface waters has increased fivefold over the same time period, chiefly because of reduced sea ice coverage. It is shown that the solar heating, considered together with subduction rates of surface water in this region, is sufficient to account for the observed halocline warming. Heat absorption at the basin margins and its subsequent accumulation in the ocean interior, therefore, have consequences for Beaufort Gyre sea ice beyond the summer season.

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