Aerial view of Accomplishment Creek and the Sagavanirktok River in the Brooks Range of Alaska.  Photo by D.L. Kane

Collaborative Research: Variability and Forcing of Fluxes through Nares Strait and Jones Sound: A Freshwater Emphasis

Kelly K. Falkner1, Andreas Münchow2, Humfrey Melling3, Fiona McLaughlin3, Ed Carmack3, Robie Macdonald3, Tom Agnew4, Roger Samelson1, Marta Torres1, Peter Jones5, John Smith5, Kuo-Chiun Wong2, Andrew Weaver6

1Oregon State University, USA (; 2University of Delaware, USA; 3Institute of Ocean Sciences, Canada; 4Atmospheric Environmental Service, Canada; 5Bedford Institute of Oceanography, Canada; 6University of Victoria, Canada

Intellectual Merit:

The Arctic Ocean plays a pivotal role in the global hydrologic cycle by returning freshwater, in the form of freshened seawater and ice, to the North Atlantic at Fram Strait and through passages of the Canadian Archipelago. Available estimates suggest that freshwater fluxes of comparable magnitude pass through Fram Strait and the combined three main passages of the Archipelago. Spatial and temporal variability in its delivery potentially impacts North-Atlantic Deep Water formation and thus the global thermohaline circulation. Over the past decade it has become clear that forces affecting the Arctic freshwater pump have undergone marked changes and resultant signals are propagating throughout the North Atlantic. Concern about possible consequences of these changes motivated development of the Studies of Environmental ARctic CHange (SEARCH) program and Arctic-Subarctic Ocean Flux (ASOF) study. As a contribution to these initiatives under the Arctic Freshwater Cycle Announcement of Opportunity (NSF- 02-071), we here propose to both quantify, determine, and explain fluxes and their driving forces through two of the three main passages of the Canadian Archipelago: Nares Strait and Jones Sound. These account for about half of the freshwater flux through Archipelago, and the remaining Lancaster Sound will be under study by colleagues. Nares Strait constitutes a crucial location to monitor change as its location at the confluence of major Arctic water mass boundaries. Spatial shifts in these boundaries relate directly to changed atmospheric pressure patterns, it is an excellent location to look for change. Specifically, our interdisciplinary American-Canadian-Japanese research team will apply a combination of proven and innovative technologies to:

  • monitor water properties and currents over a 3.5 year period in Nares Strait, Cardigan Strait and Hell's Gate via a mooring array that resolves barotropic and baroclinic motions at their relevant scales;

  • measure ice fluxes (advection and thickness) by combining moored with satellite-based observations;

  • investigate dynamically remote and local forcing and response with a moored pressure sensor array and a sub-mesoscale atmospheric modeling component for Nares Strait;

  • interpret water mass histories with hydrographic times series in the straits and Northern Baffin Bay;

  • explore long-term variability through proxies stored in bivalve shell records and sediment cores;

  • parameterize observations to improve Archipelago throughflow in Arctic and global models

Broader Impacts:

Our collaborative project takes advantage of currently supported research and expertise in Canada and Japan. The human and engineering skill to conduct Arctic field and especially mooring work was developed over the last three decades in Canada. It is in danger of being lost as little generational and institutional transfer of technical skill and knowledge has taken place in Canada or elsewhere. Our proposed effort thus constitutes an opportunity to train a generation of Arctic field workers who will transcend national, disciplinary, and gender boundaries.

Our proposed project is closely coordinated and leveraged with other work proposed in the Archipelago region. The collective Canadian Archipelago Throughflow Study (CATS) leverages substantial investment by Europeans to document variability in Arctic-Atlantic exchanges east of Greenland and on-going American-lead efforts to monitor fluxes at Bering Strait. The first ever, simultaneous observation of global-Arctic Ocean exchanges will offer unprecedented opportunities to constrain, test, and thus improve regional and global models. Improve predictive capabilities of the earth-system's response to rising greenhouse gases may lead to improved societal responses. Our specific study will indicate critical, more sustainable measurements in the future that are needed to reveal the Arctic's role in decadal climate variability.

Outreach to the secondary education and general public levels via teacher participation in cruises, media and internet, interactions with local communities, undergraduate, graduate and technician training, and communication to the broader scientific community are all integral to our research plan.

Arctic CHAMP
Science Management Office

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Photo: Aerial view of Accomplishment Creek and the
     Sagavanirktok River in the Brooks Range of Alaska.  Photo by D.L. Kane