Meltwater lenses over the Chukchi and the Beaufort seas during summer 2019: From in situ to synoptic view

Type Article
Date 2022-12
Language English
Author(s) Supply AlexandreORCID2, 6, Boutin JacquelineORCID3, Kolodziejczyk NicolasORCID7, Reverdin GillesORCID3, Lique CamilleORCID1, Vergely Jean‐luc4, Perrot XavierORCID5
Affiliation(s) 1 : Univ. Brest ,CNRS IRD Ifremer Laboratoire d’Océanographie Physique et Spatiale (LOPS) IUEM, Brest 29280, France
2 : CNES, Paris ,France
3 : Sorbonne University ,LOCEAN Laboratory ‐ IPSL CNRS–IRD–MNHM, Paris, France
4 : ACRI‐ST ,Guyancourt ,France
5 : LMD / IPSL, CNRS ENS PSL Paris, France
6 : Univ. Brest ,CNRS IRD Ifremer Laboratoire d’Océanographie Physique et Spatiale (LOPS) IUEM Brest29280 ,France
7 : Univ. Brest ,CNRS IRD Ifremer Laboratoire d’Océanographie Physique et Spatiale (LOPS) IUEM Brest29280 ,France
Source Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans (2169-9275) (American Geophysical Union (AGU)), 2022-12 , Vol. 127 , N. 12 , P. e2021JC018388 (17p.)
DOI 10.1029/2021JC018388
WOS© Times Cited 3
Keyword(s) Sea Surface Salinity, SMOS, SMAP, Arctic Ocean, Meltwater lenses

We investigate the Chukchi and the Beaufort seas in the Arctic Ocean, where salty and warm Pacific Water flows in through the Bering Strait and interacts with the sea ice, contributing to its summer melt. Thanks to in situ measurements recorded by two saildrones deployed during summer 2019 and to refined sea ice filtering in satellite L-Band radiometric data, we demonstrate the ability of satellite sea surface salinity (SSS) observed by SMOS and SMAP to capture SSS freshening induced by sea ice melt. We refer to these freshening events as meltwater lenses (MWL). The largest MWL observed by the saildrones during this period occupied a large part of the Chukchi shelf, with a SSS freshening reaching -5 practical salinity scale, persisting for up to one month. This MWL restricted the transfer of air-sea momentum to the upper ocean, as illustrated by measured wind speed and vertical profiles of currents. With satellite-based sea surface temperature, satellite SSS provides a monitoring of the different water masses encountered in the region during summer 2019. Using sea ice concentration and estimated Ekman transport, we analyse the spatial variability of sea surface properties after the sea ice edge retreat over the Chukchi and the Beaufort seas. The two MWL captured by the saildrones and the satellite measurements resulted from different dynamics. Over the Beaufort Sea, the MWL evolution followed the meridional sea ice retreat whereas, in the Chukchi Sea, a large persisting MWL was generated by advection and subsequent melting of a sea ice filament.

Key Points

Saildrones and L-Band radiometers detect large sea surface salinity variability induced by sea ice over the Chukchi and the Beaufort Sea

Low surface salinity due to sea ice melting decreases the vertical extent of momentum transfer, inhibiting it beyond 10 meters depth

Meltwater lenses may persist more than one month and reach a surface salinity 5 pss fresher than surrounding waters

Plain Language Summary

The Arctic Ocean is an area of large variations in salinity. Salinity is a main driver of ocean circulation as it determines (with seawater temperature) the seawater density. However, very little is known about salinity variations there, due to the paucity of measurements near ice and in river plumes where surface water is freshest. Here, we use surface salinity measurements from two autonomous vehicles, named saildrones, to show that satellite measurements can identify the evolution of freshwater lenses that result from sea ice melt. Over the Chukchi and the Beaufort seas, sea surface salinity exhibits large seasonal changes, partly because of the sea ice melting. In this region, water from the North Pacific Ocean enters the Arctic Ocean, resulting in large gradients of salinity and temperature. During summer 2019, the saildrones measured the surface salinity and temperature variability as the sea ice retreated northwards. By comparing these data with the measurements from satellites, we showed that satellites can detect these pools of fresh surface water in the Arctic Ocean, increasing the field of application of satellites to understand changes in conditions that determine the Arctic's role in climate change.

Full Text
File Pages Size Access
Publisher's official version 31 5 MB Open access
Supporting Information S1 3 MB Open access
Top of the page

How to cite 

Supply Alexandre, Boutin Jacqueline, Kolodziejczyk Nicolas, Reverdin Gilles, Lique Camille, Vergely Jean‐luc, Perrot Xavier (2022). Meltwater lenses over the Chukchi and the Beaufort seas during summer 2019: From in situ to synoptic view. Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans, 127(12), e2021JC018388 (17p.). Publisher's official version : , Open Access version :