Research Article

Greater role for Atlantic inflows on sea-ice loss in the Eurasian Basin of the Arctic Ocean

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Science  21 Apr 2017:
Vol. 356, Issue 6335, pp. 285-291
DOI: 10.1126/science.aai8204

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Losing its character

The eastern Eurasian Basin of the Arctic Ocean is on the far side of the North Pole from the Atlantic, but it is becoming more like its larger neighbor as the climate warms. Polyakov et al. show that this region is also evolving toward a state of weakened stratification with increased vertical mixing, release of oceanic heat, and less sea ice. These changes could have considerable impacts on other geophysical and biogeochemical aspects of the Arctic Ocean system and presage a fundamentally new Arctic climate state.

Science, this issue p. 285

Abstract

Arctic sea-ice loss is a leading indicator of climate change and can be attributed, in large part, to atmospheric forcing. Here, we show that recent ice reductions, weakening of the halocline, and shoaling of the intermediate-depth Atlantic Water layer in the eastern Eurasian Basin have increased winter ventilation in the ocean interior, making this region structurally similar to that of the western Eurasian Basin. The associated enhanced release of oceanic heat has reduced winter sea-ice formation at a rate now comparable to losses from atmospheric thermodynamic forcing, thus explaining the recent reduction in sea-ice cover in the eastern Eurasian Basin. This encroaching “atlantification” of the Eurasian Basin represents an essential step toward a new Arctic climate state, with a substantially greater role for Atlantic inflows.

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