• Mechanisms and implications of changes in the timing of ocean freeze-up

      Rolph, Rebecca J.; Mahoney, Andrew; Walsh, John; Eicken, Hajo; Winsor, Peter; Loring, Philip (2018-08)
      The shift to an Arctic seasonal sea ice cover in recent years motivates a deeper understanding of freeze-up processes and implications of a lengthened open water season. As the sea ice boundary between the Arctic ocean and atmosphere covers a smaller area, the effects of enhanced wind mixing become more pronounced. Winds are important for ocean circulation and heat exchange. Ultimately, they can influence when freeze-up can occur, or can break up new ice as it forms. The chapters of this thesis are motivated by the substantial social and geophysical consequences of a lengthening open water season and linked through discussion of what controls freeze-up timing. Implications of a declining sea ice cover as it pertains to the three Arctic Alaska coastal communities of Kotzebue, Shishmaref, and Utqiaġvik are explored in depth. Indices of locally-relevant metrics are developed by using physical climate-related thresholds found by other studies to impact Alaska communities and coastal erosion rates. This allows for a large-scale climate dataset to be used to define a timeseries of these indices for each community. We found a marked increase in the number of false freeze-ups and break-ups, the number of days too windy to hunt via subsistence boat, and in Utqiaġvik, an approximate tripling of erosion-capable wind events from 1979-2014. The WRF-downscaled ERA-Interim dataset (ERA-Interim for sea ice) was also used in the analysis of all chapters. The cumulative wind energy input into the upper ocean was calculated for the Chukchi, southern Beaufort, and northeast Bering Seas at time periods up to three months prior to freeze-up, and then correlated with the timing of freeze-up. We have found that increased wind energy input into the upper ocean 2-3 months prior to freeze-up is positively and most strongly correlated with the date of freeze-up in the Chukchi Sea. Analysis of wind climatology shows winds are increasing in the period prior to freeze-up as a delayed freeze-up moves into the fall storm season. A negative correlation is found in the Bering Sea over shorter timescales, suggesting that storms promote the arrival of sea ice there. Case studies are evaluated for the Chukchi Sea and Bering Sea, to illustrate mechanisms at play that cause the positive and negative correlations in these seas, respectively. Ice advection and high winds from northerly directions are shown to hasten the timing of freeze-up in the Bering Sea. In the Chukchi Sea, higher winds from the dominant northeasterly direction promote upwelling of warm and salty water up onto the shelf, which suggests a mechanism for why high winds are associated with a delayed freeze-up there. We next examine the effect of winds on freeze-up timing by using a 1-D vertical column model of the mixed layer. The model is initialized using temperature and salinity profiles obtained from a freeze-up buoy deployed in 2015 in the north-east part of the Chukchi Sea. The meteorological forcing used to drive the model experiments comes from a WRF-downscaled ERA-Interim Reanalysis dataset. Our results show that vertical wind-driven mixing leads to enhanced heat loss. In light of the previously found positive correlation between wind energy input and freeze-up timing, the mixing model results suggest horizontal advection not captured by the 1-D column model can dominate wind-driven vertical mixing to promote freeze-up.