Recent observations reveal a significant change in the upper ocean characteristics of the eastern Arctic in 1995. The change is manifested through the loss of a near-surface layer known as the cold halocline layer (CHL). Without the CHL, the Arctic water column looks and behaves like the Antarctic water column. The expected local impact is the appearance of significant winter ocean heat fluxes (15 - 20 W/m(2)) and reduction of winter ice growth by 70 - 80% relative to years in which the CHL was present. Preliminary results suggest a partial recovery of the CHL in the late 1990's, tracking the weakening of the Arctic Oscillation.
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