Arctic Field Projects

Project Title: Collaborative Research: Model Process Studies of Freshwater Accumulation and Release in the Beaufort Gyre of the Arctic Ocean (Award# 1602926)

PI: Cole, Sylvia T (
Phone: (508) 289.3805 
Institute/Department: Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, Physical Oceanography 
IPY Project?
Funding Agency: US\Federal\NSF\GEO\OPP\ARC\ANS
Program Manager: Dr. William Wiseman (
Discipline(s): | Oceanography |

Project Web Site(s):

Science Summary:
The Beaufort Gyre is the circulation pattern in the Arctic Ocean. Observations have documented that in 2003 to 2014, the Beaufort Gyre region accumulated more than 5000 km3 of liquid freshwater relative to the climatology of the 1970s. Recent results suggest that the Beaufort Gyre system may be entering a period of freshwater release. The release of so much freshwater to the sub-Arctic seas of the North Atlantic region has the potential to modify processes in this region, which is important for the climate system. This project will investigate how the Beaufort Gyre accumulates and releases freshwater and how this influences processes in the Arctic Ocean and in the sub-arctic seas of the North Atlantic. This project will contribute to STEM workforce development by providing support for the training of a graduate student. The project also will provide support to a young, female scientist during the formative years of her career. The project will continue and enhance a productive collaboration that the PI has established with Shanghai Ocean University (SHOU) and leverage computational resources in Shanghai. Additionally, it benefits from a collaboration between SHOU and the Norwegian research company Akvapan-niva AS, Norway, allowing access to field observations collected by this group. Outreach to the K-Gray community will be achieved through leveraging existing infrastructure and activities at the PIs' respective institutions. Recent studies do not agree on the major causes of freshwater accumulation in the Beaufort Gyre region, or the consequences of freshwater release from this region to the North Atlantic. This project will fill that gap by applying the high-resolution, unstructured grid Arctic Ocean - Finite Volume Coastal Ocean Model (AO-FVCOM), complemented by analysis of historical observational data sets from the region, to investigate: 1) processes and mechanisms of freshwater accumulation and release in the Beaufort Gyre region; 2) roles of major sources contributing to the freshwater content changes in the Arctic Ocean; 3) pathways of fresh water and sea ice from the Beaufort Gyre to the subpolar North Atlantic; and 4) consequences of this release on hydrography, deep convection and circulation.

Logistics Summary:
Beginning in late summer of 2016, this three year collaboration between Chen (1603000, UMASSD, Lead) and Cole (1602926, WHOI) will investigate the physical processes at play for the accumulation and release of freshwater in the Beaufort Gyre (BG) of the Arctic Ocean. The project will use simulations performed with a high resolution model supplemented by a synthesis of existing observations. The researchers will isolate different physical drivers such as wind, ocean circulation, and run off from land, in order to understand their influence on the freshwater budget, which increased in the BG by 25% from 2003-2014. Researchers will use model results and compare that with existing observational datasets. There is no fieldwork associated with this project.

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