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Wenli Zhong

Visiting Scientist





Department Affiliation

Polar Science Center


2000-present and while at APL-UW

Greater role of geostrophic currents in Ekman dynamics in the western Arctic Ocean as a mechanism for Beaufort Gyre stabilization

Zhong, W., M. Steele, J. Zhang, and J. Zhao, "Greater role of geostrophic currents in Ekman dynamics in the western Arctic Ocean as a mechanism for Beaufort Gyre stabilization," J. Geophys. Res., 123, 149-165, doi:10.1002/2017JC013282, 2018.

More Info

1 Jan 2018

Seven different methods, with and without including geostrophic currents, were used to explore Ekman dynamics in the western Arctic Ocean for the period 1992–2014. Results show that surface geostrophic currents have been increasing and are much stronger than Ekman layer velocities in recent years (2003–2014) when the oceanic Beaufort Gyre (BG) is spinning up in the region. The new methods that include geostrophic currents result in more realistic Ekman pumping velocities than a previous iterative method that does not consider geostrophic currents and therefore overestimates Ekman pumping velocities by up to 52% in the central area of the BG over the period 2003–2014. When the BG is spinning up as seen in recent years, geostrophic currents become stronger, which tend to modify the ice‐ocean stress and moderate the wind‐driven Ekman convergence in the Canada Basin. This is a mechanism we have identified to play an important and growing role in stabilizing the Ekman convergence and therefore the BG in recent years. This mechanism may be used to explain three scenarios that describe the interplay of changes in wind forcing, sea ice motion, and geostrophic currents that control the variability of the Ekman dynamics in the central BG during 1992–2014. Results also reveal several upwelling regions in the southern and northern Canada Basin and the Chukchi Abyssal Plain which may play a significant role in physical and biological processes in these regions.

Acoustics Air-Sea Interaction & Remote Sensing Center for Environmental & Information Systems Center for Industrial & Medical Ultrasound Electronic & Photonic Systems Ocean Engineering Ocean Physics Polar Science Center