Arctic Field Projects

Project Title: Collaborative Research: Dynamics and Variability of Freshwater Components in the Arctic Ocean (Award# 1504404)

PI: Schlosser, Peter (
Phone: (845) 365.8707 
Institute/Department: Columbia University, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory 
IPY Project?
Funding Agency: US\Federal\NSF\GEO\OPP\ARC\ARCSS
Program Manager: Dr. Neil Swanberg (
Discipline(s): | Meteorology and Climate | Oceanography |

Project Web Site(s):

Science Summary:
The salinity of water in the Arctic Ocean determines much of its buoyancy and thus how stable the various layers of water are. This is important because stability of the stratification of the ocean determines its circulation, heat transport and formation of deep water, which in turn affect the local and regional climate system, as well as ocean/atmosphere/climate interaction in lower latitudes. Thus understanding the basic processes of the circulation, buildup, and release of lower salinity water (called 'freshwater') is of fundamental importance for understanding future states of the Arctic Ocean. This project will study the dynamics and variability of the freshwater components and the overall freshwater inventories, in the region of the ocean north of Greenland, where water and sea ice ultimately take one of two pathways south. The main goal of the study is to understand how buoyancy is redistributed within the Arctic Ocean and how freshwater accumulates and is released. The project is especially interested in the role distinct freshwater components play in this process. For this purpose data collected as part of the Arctic Observing Network will be compared to model simulations and vice versa to test hypotheses concerning the circulation, accumulation and release of freshwater and its components in the Arctic Ocean and to test the performance of an Arctic Ocean model. This project will create data products for researchers and educators interested in the Arctic and its response to climate change. Circulation patterns of the individual freshwater components and other synthesized outputs, along with information and documentation needed to assist educators, will be made publicly available through an online site that is expected to have significant traffic from educators in academia and secondary school levels. This project will provide the core of a PhD dissertation for a graduate student.

Logistics Summary:
This collaboration between Schlosser (1504404, Columbia U) and Steele (1503298 , UW) will conduct analysis of the AON observations from the Switchyard region in the context of pan-Arctic data collected on icebreaker cruises over a period of ca. two decades, and study the freshwater balance based on dynamical tools, model simulations and model/data comparisons. The three major goals of this collaboration are: -Determine of transit pathways and transit times for individual freshwater components (PW, MW, SIMW) from their source regions in the shelf seas to the Switchyard region and from there to their exit points in Fram Strait or the Canadian Archipelago. -Explore driving forces of the observed rapid (interannual) shifts in the water-mass composition in the Switchyard region and Fram Strait. -Examine the processes that account for the relatively slow pace of change in the vertical and horizontal salinity gradients given the rapid changes in individual freshwater component distributions. Modeling and data analysis only, no fieldwork is associated with this collaboration.

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