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Data from Beaufort Sea research projects

PMEL has conducted research in the Beaufort Sea to study large scale shelf circulation and its low-frequency variability, time-dependent wind forcing over sea ice and the seasonal hydrographic cycle of nutrients and dissolved oxygen in the Beaufort Sea. The Beaufort Sea Mesoscale Circulation Study was initiated in the Autumn of 1986 and included measurements of currents, winds and ice velocities are well as observations of state variables and nutirent distributions in the ocean and state variables in the polar atmosphere, principally between Barrow and Demarcation Point along the Alaska Beaufort Sea shelf. Data collection continued through April 1988 when the remaining current meter moorings were recovered through the ice and the coastal anemometers were dismantled. The total data set is extraordinary in the temporal and spatial extent of the coverage and in the variety of its constituent measurements.
Access to data
ARGOS drifter and meteorological data were collected at a number of shore and ice floe based locations. CTD data from a number of projects in the area are available. A limited number of current meters were deployed in the western part of the region. A data browser is being developed to view CTD and section data.

Field Efforts

Three major field efforts were conducted: an icebreaker cruise in October 1986; a comprehensive helicopter supported operation on the ice in March-April 1987 and a conventional cruise aboard the NOAA Ship Surveyor in August-September 1987.


  • Below the upper 40-50m the major circualtion feature of the outer shelf and slope is the Beaufort Undercurrent, a strong flow which in the mean is directed eastward but which is subject to frequent reversals toward the west.
  • The influence of wind on the subsurface flow in the southern Beaufort Sea is statistically significant but it is generally of secondary improtance and accounts for less than 25% of the flow variance below 60 m.
  • There are large changes in wind variance with season but no evidence for seasonal variability in the subsurface circulation.


Cont. # 1040
Aagaard, K., C.H. Pease, and S.A. Salo (1988): Beaufort Sea mesoscale
circulation study--preliminary results.
NOAA Technical Memorandum ERL PMEL-82 (PB89-121693), 171 pp.

Cont. # 1007
Pease, C.H. (1988): Beaufort/Chukchi Ice Motion and Meteorology Update .
Proceedings, Alaska OCS Region 1987 Arctic Information Transfer Meeting
Conference, OCS Study MMS 88-0040, Minerals Management
Service, Anchorage, AK, 145-150.

Cont. # 1155
Aagaard, K., C.H. Pease, A.T. Roach, and S.A. Salo (1989): Beaufort Sea mesoscale
circulation study--Final Report . NOAA Technical Memorandum ERL PMEL-90
{PB90-158775), 114 pp.

Cont. # 1144
Pease, C.H., and P. Turet (1989): Sea ice drift and deformation in
the western Arctic . Oceans '89 Proceedings, Seattle, WA,
September 18-21, 1989, Vol. 4: Acoustics, Arctic Studies.
Marine Technology Society, IEEE Publication Number 89CH2780-5, 1276-1281.

About the Beaufort Sea

North of Canada - enclosed by arc from n Alaska and Banks Island.
Sea without Islands
Named after Sir Francis Beaufort - of Beaufort Scale fame
Explored by Stefansson in 1913-18

Average depth greater than 10,000 feet

Information extracted from the Strandard Encyclopedia of the World's Oceans and Islands edited by Anthony Huxley. G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1962