National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration
United States Department of Commerce


FY 2014

Observations of the Alaskan Stream near Samalga Pass and its connection to the Bering Sea: 2001– 2004

Stabeno, P.J., and H.G. Hristova

Deep-Sea Res. I, 88, 30–46, doi: 10.1016/j.dsr.2014.03.002 (2014)

Year-long moorings were deployed across the Alaskan Stream near Samalga Pass (169°W) on two occasions, first in 2001–2002 (5 moorings) and again in 2003–2004 (3 moorings). Currents were measured throughout the water column, and temperature and salinity were measured at selected depths. Satellite altimetry and satellite-tracked drifters revealed a well defined Alaskan Stream, with the largest near-surface average speeds (>60 cm s−1) and highest eddy kinetic energy just upstream from the mooring sites. Excluding periods when large eddies disrupted the flow, transport in the Alaskan Stream ranged from 10 to 30×106 m3 s-1. The estimated mean transport in 2001–2002 was 19×106 m3 s-1, and in 2003–2004 was 21×106 m3 s-1. Large (diameter>200 km), anti-cyclonic eddies were not uncommon in the vicinity of Samalga Pass (14 times in 20 year period, 1992–2012). Although there were no such eddies observed during the period 2000–2003, one of the largest ever recorded eddies occurred in spring 2004. In addition, smaller eddies occurred on several occasions. Eddies disrupted the flow, shifting the Alaskan Stream farther off shore and were clearly evident in both the satellite imagery and the mooring data. Other energetic events, which were less evident in the satellite records, but clearly evident in the mooring measurements, also disrupted the flow. In addition to the moorings in the Alaskan Stream, pressure gauges were placed in Samalga Pass and a single mooring measuring currents was placed in the Aleutian North Slope Current (ANSC) in the Bering Sea. The alongshore, near-surface flow measured at the moorings deployed on the 1000-m isobaths in the Alaskan Stream and the ANSC were significantly correlated with the bottom pressure time series. In addition, at periods longer than 14 days, the bottom pressure measured at the mooring sites in Samalga Pass was significantly correlated with the sea surface height measured by the satellites. The eddy kinetic energies measured from the satellites and from moorings were also significantly correlated.

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