National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration
United States Department of Commerce


FY 2015

Lateral mixing across ice meltwater fronts of the Chukchi Sea shelf

Lu, K., T. Weingartner, S. Danielson, P. Winsor, E. Dobbins, K. Martini, and H. Statscewich

Geophys. Res. Lett., 42(16), 6754–6761, doi: 10.1002/2015GL064967 (2015)

Summer and fall hydrographic sections in the northeastern Chukchi Sea frequently capture 5–20 m thick intrapycnocline lenses or horizontal plumes of warm, moderately salty summer Bering Sea Water flowing northward from Bering Strait. These features occur within the shallow (~20 m depth) pycnocline separating cold, dilute, surface meltwater from near-freezing, salty, winter-formed waters beneath the pycnocline. An idealized numerical model suggests that the features arise from eddies and meanders generated by instability of the surface front separating meltwater from Bering Sea Water. Warm Bering Sea Water is transported across the front and into the pycnocline by the cross-frontal velocities associated with the instabilities. The accompanying lateral eddy heat fluxes may be important both in summer for promoting ice melt and in fall by delaying the onset of ice formation over portions of this shelf. Lateral heat flux magnitudes depend upon the stratification of the Bering Sea Water.

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