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  1. Abstract

    We identified the nature and driving mechanisms of subinertial variability (variability at a time scale of several days) in four fjords in Southeast Greenland, in three high‐resolution numerical simulations. We find two dominant frequency ranges in along‐fjord velocity, volume transport of Atlantic Water, and along‐fjord heat transport: one around 2–4 days and one around 10 days. The higher frequency is most prominent in the two smaller fjords (Sermilik Fjord and Kangerdlugssuaq Fjord), while the lower frequency peak dominates in the larger fjords (Scoresby Sund and King Oscar Fjord). The cross‐fjord structure of variability patterns is determined by the fjord's dynamic width, while the vertical structure is determined by the stratification in the fjord. The dominant frequency range is a function of stratification and fjord length, through the travel time of resonant internal Kelvin waves. We find that the subinertial variability is the imprint of Coastal Trapped Waves, which manifest as Rossby‐type waves on the continental shelf and as internal Kelvin‐type waves inside the fjords. Between 50% and 80% of the variability in the fjord is directly forced by Coastal Trapped Waves propagating in from the shelf, with an additional role played by alongshore wind forcing on the shelf.

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  2. Abstract

    Mesoscale features present at the Denmark Strait sill regularly enhance the volume transport of the Denmark Strait overflow (DSO). They are important for the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation and ultimately, for the global climate system. Using a realistic numerical model, we find new evidence of the causal relationship between overflow surges (i.e., mesoscale features associated with high‐transport events) and DSO cyclones observed downstream. Most of the cyclones form at the Denmark Strait sill during overflow surges and, because of potential vorticity conservation and stretching of the water column, grow as they move equatorward. A fraction of the cyclones form downstream of the sill, when anticyclonic vortices formed during high‐transport events start collapsing. Regardless of their formation mechanism, DSO cyclones weaken starting roughly 150 km downstream of the sill, and potential vorticity is only materially conserved during the growth phase.

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  3. Abstract

    A realistic numerical model was constructed to simulate the oceanic conditions and circulation in a large southeast Greenland fjord (Kangerdlugssuaq) and the adjacent shelf sea region during winter 2007–2008. The major outlet glaciers in this region recently destabilized, contributing to sea level rise and ocean freshening, with increased oceanic heating a probable trigger. It is not apparent a priori whether the fjord dynamics will be influenced by rotational effects, as the fjord width is comparable to the internal Rossby radius. The modeled currents, however, describe a highly three‐dimensional system, where rotational effects are of order‐one importance. Along‐shelf wind events drive a rapid baroclinic exchange, mediated by coastally trapped waves, which propagate from the shelf to the glacier terminus along the right‐hand boundary of the fjord. The terminus was regularly exposed to around 0.5 TW of heating over the winter season. Wave energy dissipation provoked vertical mixing, generating a buoyancy flux which strengthened overturning. The coastally trapped waves also acted to strengthen the cyclonic mean flow via Stokes' drift. Although the outgoing wave was less energetic and located at the opposite sidewall, the fjord did exhibit a resonant response, suggesting that fjords of this scale can also exhibit two‐dimensional dynamics. Long periods of moderate wind stress greatly enhanced the cross‐shelf delivery of heat toward the fjord, in comparison to stronger events over short intervals. This suggests that the timescale over which the shelf wind field varies is a key parameter in dictating wintertime heat delivery from the ocean to the ice sheet.

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  4. null (Ed.)
    Abstract Ocean currents along the southeast Greenland coast play an important role in the climate system. They carry dense water over the Denmark Strait sill, freshwater from the Arctic and the Greenland Ice Sheet into the subpolar ocean, and warm Atlantic Ocean water into Greenland’s fjords, where it can interact with outlet glaciers. Observational evidence from moorings shows that the circulation in this region displays substantial subinertial variability (typically with periods of several days). For the dense water flowing over the Denmark Strait sill, this variability augments the time-mean transport. It has been suggested that the subinertial variability found in observations is associated with coastal trapped waves, whose properties depend on bathymetry, stratification, and the mean flow. Here, we use the output of a high-resolution realistic simulation to diagnose and characterize subinertial variability in sea surface height and velocity along the coast. The results show that the subinertial signals are coherent over hundreds of kilometers along the shelf. We find coastal trapped waves on the shelf and along the shelf break in two subinertial frequency bands—at periods of 1–3 and 5–18 days—that are consistent with a combination of mode-I waves and higher modes. Furthermore, we find that northeasterly barrier winds may trigger the 5–18-day shelf waves, whereas the 1–3-day variability is linked to high wind speeds over Sermilik Deep. 
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  5. null (Ed.)
    Export from the Arctic and meltwater from the Greenland Ice Sheet together form a southward-flowing coastal current along the East Greenland shelf. This current transports enough fresh water to substantially alter the large-scale circulation of the North Atlantic, yet the coastal current’s origin and fate are poorly known due to our lack of knowledge concerning its north-south connectivity. Here, we demonstrate how the current negotiates the complex topography of Denmark Strait using in situ data and output from an ocean circulation model. We determine that the coastal current north of the strait supplies half of the transport to the coastal current south of the strait, while the other half is sourced from offshore via the shelfbreak jet, with little input from the Greenland Ice Sheet. These results indicate that there is a continuous pathway for Arctic-sourced fresh water along the entire East Greenland shelf from Fram Strait to Cape Farewell. 
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