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Observing Vertical Ocean Fluxes of Heat Salt and Momentum in the Central Arctic.

As the ocean provides a critical “thermal flywheel” in the Arctic heat balance on seasonal and longer time scales, accurate measurement of vertical heat fluxes through the upper ocean is critical in determining the balance between radiative and sensible heat fluxes at the ice surface, changes in ice cover, thickness and heat content, and ocean heat content which all interact over seasonal scales to maintain ice cover in the Arctic. The insulating properties of the Arctic ice cover largely decouple rapid, strong variations of surface heat fluxes from the ocean interior. Furthermore, since still water is also a very good insulator, the vertical transport of heat to and from the salt stratified ocean interior is determined primarily by the rate at which the upper ocean is stirred. This stirring occurs when wind blows over the ice and moves, forming a turbulent boundary layer extending down from the ice toward the stratified pycnocline, typically at 30m depth. The flux buoy measures these fluxes within the stirred “mixed” layer below the ice. I have been funded to develop autonomous, ice-deployed drifting buoys (http://www.oc.nps.navy.mil/~stanton/fluxbuoy/) capable of measuring vertical fluxes of momentum, heat and salt in the upper ocean in Polar regions through the NSF “Polar Instrumentation and Technology Development” program. The first of a series of buoys has been deployed as a component of the North Pole Environmental Observatory (http://psc.apl.washington.edu/northpole/index.html) near the North Pole in April 2002 in a cluster of observing systems that measure the local ocean/ice/atmosphere vertical fluxes. The approach taken in the buoy design and progress of the program will be discussed.