The effect of changing sea ice on wave climate trends along Alaska's central Beaufort Sea coast

The Cryosphere
By: , and 



Diminishing sea ice is impacting the wave field across the Arctic region. Recent observation- and model-based studies highlight the spatiotemporal influence of sea ice on offshore wave climatologies, but effects within the nearshore region are still poorly described. This study characterizes the wave climate in the central Beaufort Sea coast from 1979 to 2019 by utilizing a wave hindcast model that uses ERA5 winds, waves, and ice concentrations as input. The spectral wave model SWAN (Simulating Waves Nearshore) is calibrated and validated based on more than 10 000 in situ time point measurements collected over a 13-year time period across the region, with friction variations and empirical coefficients for newly implemented empirical ice formulations for the open-water and shoulder seasons. Model results and trends are analyzed over the 41-year time period using the non-parametric Mann–Kendall test, including an estimate of Sen's slope. The model results show that the reduction in sea ice concentration correlates strongly with increases in average and extreme wave conditions. In particular, the open-water season extended by ∼96 d over the 41-year time period (∼2.4 d yr−1), resulting in a 5-fold increase in the yearly cumulative wave power. Moreover, the open-water season extends later into the year, resulting in relatively more open-water conditions during fall storms with high wind speeds. The later freeze-up results in an increase in the annual offshore median wave heights of 1 % yr−1 and an increase in the average number of rough wave days (defined as days when maximum wave heights exceed 2.5 m) from 1.5 in 1979 to 13.1 d in 2019. Trends in the nearshore areas deviate from the patterns offshore. Model results indicate a saturation limit for high wave heights in the shallow areas of Foggy Island Bay. Similar patterns are found for yearly cumulative wave power.

Study Area

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title The effect of changing sea ice on wave climate trends along Alaska's central Beaufort Sea coast
Series title The Cryosphere
DOI 10.5194/tc-16-1609-2022
Volume 16
Year Published 2021
Language English
Publisher European Geosciences Union
Contributing office(s) Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center
Description 21 p.
First page 1609
Last page 1629
Country United States
State Alaska
Other Geospatial Beaufort Sea coast
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