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Supercooled water in an Arctic polynya: observations and modeling

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In situ field measurements of an active polynya in Storfjorden, Svalbard, during April 2006 are presented. A surface heat flux, estimated to be 400 W m−2, produced frazil ice that was advected away from the fast ice edge during the end of a polynya event driven by cold winds from the northeast. Conductivity, temperature and depth casts from the fast ice edge of the polynya were calibrated by accompanying water samples, and reveal a supercooling event that lasted for 3 days in a 5 m deep water column. Surface salinity reached 35.9 psu from brine release during ice growth. The maximum supercooling measured was 0.037 ± 0.005°C below the in situ freezing point near the surface and 0.016 ± 0.005°C at the bottom; the mean supercooling gradient was 0.020 ± 0.005°C between the surface and the bottom. These measurements are consistent with results from a one-dimensional frazil ice model, confirming that such supercooling levels can be expected. Frazil ice concentrations in the water were modeled to be lower than 0.02 g L−1, due to advection in the surface layer. Seven frazil/grease ice samples taken from a place where advection was blocked along the fast ice edge showed a mean salinity of 26.2 psu, indicating 25% frazil ice and 75% sea water in the grease ice. The water-column salinity decreased during the measurement period due to less saline water replacing newly formed brine-enriched shelf water flowing down to deeper parts of Storfjorden. The supercooling ceased when the wind direction turned to the east, with higher air temperatures and warmer and less saline water being pushed into Storfjorden by the northward Ekman transport. These are the first in situ observations from an active Arctic polynya with concurrent sampling of hydrography and frazil ice, and the supercooling is the maximum observed in recent years with modern and accurate instrumentation.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: February 1, 2009

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  • The Journal of Glaciology is published six times per year. It accepts submissions from any discipline related to the study of snow and ice. All articles are peer reviewed. The Journal is included in the ISI Science Citation Index.
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