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Sea Ice and Ocean Response to a Strong Mid-Winter Cyclone in the Arctic Ocean
  • +2
  • Daniel Mark Watkins,
  • Ola P G Persson,
  • Jennifer K Hutchings,
  • Timothy P Stanton,
  • Amy Solomon
Daniel Mark Watkins
Brown University

Corresponding Author:[email protected]

Author Profile
Ola P G Persson
Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, NOAA Physical Sciences Laboratory
Jennifer K Hutchings
Oregon State University
Timothy P Stanton
Moss Landing Marine Laboratories and Naval Postgraduate School
Amy Solomon
Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, NOAA Physical Sciences Laboratory


Sea ice mediates the exchange of momentum, heat, and moisture between the atmosphere and the ocean. Cyclones produce strong gradients in the wind field, imparting stress into the ice and causing the ice to deform. In turn, increased sea ice drift speeds and rapid changes in drift direction during the passage of a cyclone may result in enhanced momentum flux into the upper ocean.  During the year-long MOSAiC expedition, an array of drifting buoys was deployed surrounding the R/V Polarstern, enabling the characterization of sea ice motion and deformation across a range of spatial scales. In addition, autonomous sensors at a subset of sites measured the atmospheric and oceanic structure and vertical fluxes. Here, we examine a strong cyclone that impacted the MOSAiC site during January and February, 2020, while the MOSAiC site was near the North Pole. 
The cyclone track intersected the MOSAiC buoy array, providing an opportunity to examine spatial variability in sea ice motion during the storm in unprecedented detail. A key feature of the storm was the formation of a low-level jet (LLJ), first in the warm sector of the storm, then growing to eventually encircle the central low. The highest rates of ice motion and deformation coincide with effects of LLJ transitions. Analysis of deformation using the Green’s theorem approach indicates divergence and cyclonic vorticity as the LLJ enters the region, and convergence and anticyclonic vorticity as the LLJ leaves; maximum shear strain rate is enhanced throughout the LLJ’s passage. While the vorticity signal is particularly clear, floe structure and internal ice stresses result in high spatial variability in the magnitude of divergence and shear strain rates, especially at smaller scales. Increased current speed and shear in the upper layer of the ocean during the passage of the LLJ resulted from ice drag forcing the ocean mixed layer current. The results suggest an important role for cyclone-forced ocean mixing in pack ice during the Arctic winter.
21 Dec 2023Submitted to ESS Open Archive
27 Dec 2023Published in ESS Open Archive