National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration
United States Department of Commerce


FY 2014

Is there a "new normal" climate in the Beaufort Sea?

Wood, K.R., J.E. Overland, S.A. Salo, N.A. Bond, W.J. Williams, and X. Dong

Polar Res., 32, 19552, doi: 10.3402/polar.v32i0.19552 (2013)

Since 2007, environmental conditions in the Beaufort Sea have appeared to be consistently different from those in the past. Is a ‘‘new normal’’ climate emerging in the region? Sea-surface temperatures (SSTs) have been notably warm during the summer, leading to delayed freeze-up in the fall along with large surface air temperature (SAT) anomalies due to the release of stored ocean heat to the atmosphere. In the autumn of 2011 and 2012, SST and SAT anomalies in Arctic marginal seas were the largest observed in the Northern Hemisphere. Since 2007, there has been an increase in easterly winds, which has helped set the stage for Arctic amplification by advecting sea ice out of the region and enhancing surface stratification due to the offshore transport of fresh water from the large Mackenzie River discharge plume. These winds are linked to an intensification of the Beaufort High and are evident throughout the troposphere. Their occurrence has undoubtedly contributed to the acceleration of sea-ice loss and surface warming in the Beaufort Sea, with additional impacts likely throughout the ecosystem.

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