National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration
United States Department of Commerce


FY 2018

Flow patterns in the eastern Chukchi Sea: 2010–2015

Stabeno, P., N. Kachel, C. Ladd, and R. Woodgate

J. Geophys. Res., 123(2), 1177–1195, doi: 10.1002/2017JC013135 (2018)

From 2010 to 2015, moorings were deployed on the northern Chukchi Sea at nine sites. Deployment duration varied from 5 years at a site off Icy Cape to 1 year at a site north of Hanna Shoal. In addition, 39 satellite-tracked drifters (drogue depth 25–30 m) were deployed in the region during 2012–2015. The goals of this manuscript are to describe currents in the Chukchi Sea and their relationship to ice and winds. The north-south pressure gradient results in, on average, a northward flow over the Chukchi shelf, which is modified by local winds. The volume transport near Icy Cape (∼0.4 Sv) was ∼40% of flow through Bering Strait and varied seasonally, accounting for >50% of summer and ∼20% of winter transport in Bering Strait. Current direction was strongly influenced by bathymetry, with northward flow through the Central Channel and eastward flow south of Hanna Shoal. The latter joined the coastal flow exiting the shelf via Barrow Canyon. Drifter trajectories indicated the transit from Bering Strait to the mouth of Barrow Canyon took ∼90 days during the ice-free season. Most (∼70%) of the drifters turned westward at the mouth of Barrow Canyon and continued westward in the Chukchi Slope Current. This slope flow was largely confined to the upper 300 m, and although it existed year-round, it was strongest in spring and summer. Drifter trajectories indicated that the Chukchi Slope Current extends as far west as the mouth of Herald Canyon. The remaining ∼30% of the drifters turned eastward or were intercepted by sea ice.

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