loading page

Elucidating large-scale atmospheric controls on Bering Strait throughflow variability using a data-constrained ocean model and its adjoint
  • An T Nguyen,
  • Rebecca A. Woodgate,
  • Patrick Heimbach
An T Nguyen
University of Texas-Austin, University of Texas-Austin

Corresponding Author:atnguyen@oden.utexas.edu

Author Profile
Rebecca A. Woodgate
University of Washington, University of Washington
Author Profile
Patrick Heimbach
university of Texas at Austin, university of Texas at Austin
Author Profile


A data-constrained coupled ocean-sea ice general circulation model and its adjoint are used to investigate mechanisms controlling the volume transport variability through the Bering Strait from 2002 to 2013. Comprehensive time-resolved sensitivity maps of the Bering Strait transport to atmospheric forcing can be accurately computed with the adjoint along the forward model trajectory to identify the spatial and temporal scales most relevant to the strait’s transport variability. The model’s Bering Strait transport anomaly is found to be controlled primarily by the wind stress on short time-scales of order 1 month. Spatial decomposition indicates that on monthly time-scales winds over the Bering and the combined Chukchi and East Siberian Seas are the most significant drivers. Continental shelf waves and coastally-trapped waves are suggested as the dominant mechanisms for propagating information from the far field to/from the strait. In years with transport extrema, eastward wind stress anomalies in the Arctic sector are found to be the dominant control, with correlation coefficient of 0.94. This implies that atmospheric variability over the Arctic plays a substantial role in determining the Bering Strait flow variability. The near-linear response of the transport anomaly to wind stress allows for predictive skill at interannual time-scales, thus potentially enabling skillful prediction of changes at this important Pacific-Arctic gateway, provided that accurate measurements of surface winds in the Arctic can be obtained. The novelty of this work is the use of space and time-resolved adjoint-based sensitivity maps, which enable detailed dynamical, i.e. causal attribution of the impacts of different forcings.
Sep 2020Published in Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans volume 125 issue 9. 10.1029/2020JC016213