Satellite observation and climate system model simulation of the St. Lawrence Island polynya

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Lynch, Amanda H. ; Glueck, Mary F. ; Chapman, William L. ; Bailey, David A. ; Walsh, John E. (2011)

The St. Lawrence Island polynya (SLIP) is a commonly occurring winter phenomenon in the Bering Sea, in which dense saline water produced during new ice formation is thought to flow northward through the Bering Strait to help maintain the Arctic Ocean halocline. Winter darkness and inclement weather conditions have made continuous in situ and remote observation of this polynya difficult. However, imagery acquired from the European Space Agency ERS-1 Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) has allowed observation of the St. Lawrence Island polynya using both the imagery and derived ice displacement products. With the development of ARCSyM, a high resolution regional model of the Arctic atmosphere/sea ice system, simulation of the SLIP in a climate model is now possible. Intercomparisons between remotely sensed products and simulations can lead to additional insight into the SLIP formation process. Low resolution SAR, SSM/I and AVHRR infrared imagery for the St. Lawrence Island region are compared with the results of a model simulation for the period of 24–27 February 1992. The imagery illustrates a polynya event (polynya opening). With the northerly winds strong and consistent over several days, the coupled model captures the SLIP event with moderate accuracy. However, the introduction of a stability dependent atmosphere-ice drag coefficient, which allows feedbacks between atmospheric stability, open water, and air-ice drag, produces a more accurate simulation of the SLIP in comparison to satellite imagery. Model experiments show that the polynya event is forced primarily by changes in atmospheric circulation followed by persistent favorable conditions: ocean surface currents are found to have a small but positive impact on the simulation which is enhanced when wind forcing is weak or variable.DOI: 10.1034/j.1600-0870.1997.t01-1-00008.x
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