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Title: Arctic Mediterranean exchanges: a consistent volume budget and trends in transports from two decades of observations

Abstract. The Arctic Mediterranean (AM) is the collective name forthe Arctic Ocean, the Nordic Seas, and their adjacent shelf seas. Water enters into thisregion through the Bering Strait (Pacific inflow) and through the passages across theGreenland–Scotland Ridge (Atlantic inflow) and is modified within the AM. The modifiedwaters leave the AM in several flow branches which are grouped into two differentcategories: (1) overflow of dense water through the deep passages across theGreenland–Scotland Ridge, and (2) outflow of light water – here termed surface outflow– on both sides of Greenland. These exchanges transport heat and salt into and out ofthe AM and are important for conditions in the AM. They are also part of the global oceancirculation and climate system. Attempts to quantify the transports by various methodshave been made for many years, but only recently the observational coverage has becomesufficiently complete to allow an integrated assessment of the AM exchanges based solelyon observations. In this study, we focus on the transport of water and have collecteddata on volume transport for as many AM-exchange branches as possible between 1993 and2015. The total AM import (oceanic inflows plusfreshwater) is found to be 9.1 Sv (sverdrup,1 Sv =106 m3 s−1) with an estimated uncertainty of 0.7 Sv and hasthe amplitude more » of the seasonal variation close to 1 Sv and maximum import in October.Roughly one-third of the imported water leaves the AM as surface outflow with theremaining two-thirds leaving as overflow. The overflow water is mainly produced frommodified Atlantic inflow and around 70 % of the total Atlantic inflow is convertedinto overflow, indicating a strong coupling between these two exchanges. The surfaceoutflow is fed from the Pacific inflow and freshwater (runoff and precipitation), but isstill approximately two-thirds of modified Atlantic water. For the inflowbranches and the two main overflow branches (Denmark Strait and Faroe Bank Channel),systematic monitoring of volume transport has been established since the mid-1990s, andthis enables us to estimate trends for the AM exchanges as a whole. At the 95 %confidence level, only the inflow of Pacific water through the Bering Strait showed astatistically significant trend, which was positive. Both the total AM inflow and thecombined transport of the two main overflow branches also showed trends consistent withstrengthening, but they were not statistically significant. They do suggest, however,that any significant weakening of these flows during the last two decades is unlikely andthe overall message is that the AM exchanges remained remarkably stable in the periodfrom the mid-1990s to the mid-2010s. The overflows are the densest source water for thedeep limb of the North Atlantic part of the meridional overturning circulation (AMOC),and this conclusion argues that the reported weakening of the AMOC was not due tooverflow weakening or reduced overturning in the AM. Although the combined data set hasmade it possible to establish a consistent budget for the AM exchanges, the observationalcoverage for some of the branches is limited, which introduces considerable uncertainty.This lack of coverage is especially extreme for the surface outflow through the DenmarkStrait, the overflow across the Iceland–Faroe Ridge, and the inflow over the Scottishshelf. We recommend that more effort is put into observing these flows as well asmaintaining the monitoring systems established for the other exchange branches.

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Award ID(s):
1758565 1304052
Publication Date:
Journal Name:
Ocean Science
Page Range or eLocation-ID:
379 to 399
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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