05 Dec 2022
05 Dec 2022
Status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal TC.

A model for the Artic mixed layer circulation under a summertime lead: Implications on the near-surface temperature maximum formation

Alberto Alvarez Alberto Alvarez
  • NATO-STO Center for Maritime Research and Experimentation-CMRE, V. San Bartolomeo 400, La Spezia, 19126, Italy

Abstract. Leads in the sea ice sheet have been studied extensively because of their climate relevance. In summer, there is an intense heat exchange between the ocean and the atmosphere in the leads. Leads are also preferential melting sites in early summer, but their oceanography and climate relevance, if any, remains largely unexplored during this period of the year. In particular, the development of a near-surface temperature maximum (NSTM) layer at typically 10–30 m deep under different Arctic Basins, has been related observationally to the penetration of solar radiation through the leads. The observations reveal that the concatenation of calm and wind events in the leads could facilitate the development of the NSTM layer. This study investigates, using numerical modelling and an idealized framework, the formation of the NSTM layer under a summer lead exposed to a combination of calm and moderate wind periods. During the calm period, solar heat accumulates in the upper layers under the lead. Near-surface convection cells are generated daily, extending from the lead sides to its center. Convection cells affect the heat storage in the mixed layer under the lead and the adjacent ice cap. A subsequent wind event (and corresponding ice drift) mixes and spreads fresh and cold meltwater into the warm layers near the surface. Surface mixing results in temperatures in the near-surface layers that are lower than in the deeper layers, where the impact of the surface stresses is weaker. Also, the warm waters initially located under the lead surface stretch and spread horizontally. Thus an NSTM layer is formed. The study analyses the sensitivity of depth and temperature of the NSTM layer to buoyancy forcing, wind intensity and ice drift. Numerical results suggest that the NSTM layer appears with moderate wind and ice drift, and disappears when wind intensity is higher than 9 ms-1. According to the results, ice drift is key in the development of the NSTM layer.

Alberto Alvarez

Status: open (until 08 Mar 2023)

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Alberto Alvarez

Alberto Alvarez


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Short summary
A near-surface temperature maximum (NSTM) layer is typically observed under different Arctic Basins. Although its development seems related to solar heating in leads, its formation mechanism is under debate. This study uses numerical modelling in an idealized framework, to demonstrate that the NSTM layer forms under a summer lead exposed to a combination of calm and moderate wind periods. Future warming of this layer could modify acoustic propagation with implications for marine mammals.