What Processes Control the Freshwater Budget of the Arctic Seas?

Description of Project

The Arctic seas are characterized by waters of particularly low salinity, a positive Precipitation minus Evaporation budget, a relatively large freshwater input from river runoff, and a vertical stratification dictated by variations in salinity rather than temperature [1,2,3]. These seas are located upstream of the North Atlantic, where their influence is felt as far as Newfoundland [4] and likely beyond [5]. Moreover, these seas are particularly affected by global warming [6] and are likely to be experiencing an accelerating hydrological cycle [7]. How will these seas evolve under such drastic changes in their forcings? To answer this question, we should first have a first-order view of the dynamics that control the ocean climate of these seas, notably the structure of their density/salinity field.

My past work was focused upon one Arctic sea in particular, Hudson Bay. The topics I examined included the steady balance of the freshwater sources and sinks [8], and the processes involved in the seasonal and interannual variability of the freshwaters [8,9]. I am now expanding this work to highlight how these processes vary in importance from one Arctic basin to another, and which parameters dictate this physics [10].

Snapshot from numerical simulation of Hudson Bay
Numerical simulations of an Arctic basin (Hudson Bay). (left) Sea surface salinity from a realistic 3-D sea ice-ocean coupled model. (right) Seasonal freshwater budget from a conceptual model of the same basin. See St-Laurent et al. (2011,2012).


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  8. St-Laurent, P., F. Straneo, J.-F. Dumais, and D.G. Barber, 2011. What is the fate of the river waters of Hudson Bay? J. Mar. Syst., 88, p.352-361, doi:10.1016/j.jmarsys.2011.02.004, preprint.
  9. St-Laurent, P., F. Straneo, and D.G. Barber, 2012. A Conceptual Model of an Arctic Sea. J. Geophys. Res., vol. 117, C06010, doi:10.1029/2011jc007652, preprint.
  10. St-Laurent, P., and F. Straneo. On the Controls behind the Freshwater Balance of Arctic Seas, In Prep.