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Export of Arctic freshwater components through the Fram Strait 1998–2010

Author(s): B. Rabe | P. Dodd | E. Hansen | E. Falck | U. Schauer | A. Mackensen | A. Beszczynska-Möller | G. Kattner | E. J. Rohling | K. Cox

Journal: Ocean Science Discussions (OSD)
ISSN 1812-0806

Volume: 9;
Issue: 4;
Start page: 2749;
Date: 2012;
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The East Greenland Current in the Western Fram Strait is an important pathway for liquid freshwater export from the Arctic Ocean to the Nordic Seas and the North Atlantic subpolar gyre. We analysed five hydrographic surveys and data from moored current meters around 79° N in the Western Fram Strait between 1998 and 2010. To estimate the composition of southward liquid freshwater transports, inventories of liquid freshwater and components from Dodd et al. (2012) were combined with transport estimates from an inverse model between 10.6° W and 4° E. The southward liquid freshwater transports through the section averaged to 92 mSv (2900 km3 yr−1), relative to a salinity of 34.9. The transports consisted of 123 mSv water from rivers and precipitation (meteoric water), 28 mSv freshwater from the Pacific and 60 mSv freshwater deficit due to brine from ice formation. Variability in liquid freshwater and component transports appear to have been partly due to advection of these water masses to the Fram Strait and partly due to variations in the local volume transport; an exception are Pacific Water transports, which showed little co-variability with volume transports. An increase in Pacific Water transports from 2005 to 2010 suggests a release of Pacific Water from the Beaufort Gyre, in line with an observed expansion of Pacific Water towards the Eurasian Basin. The co-variability of meteoric water and brine from ice formation suggests joint processes in the main sea ice formation regions on the Arctic Ocean shelves. In addition, enhanced levels of sea ice melt observed in 2009 likely led to reduced transports of brine from ice formation. At least part of this additional ice melt appears to have been advected from the Beaufort Gyre and from north of the Bering Strait towards the Fram Strait. The observed changes in liquid freshwater component transports are much larger than known trends in the Arctic liquid freshwater inflow from rivers and the Pacific. Instead, recent observations of an increased storage of liquid freshwater in the Arctic Ocean suggest a decreased export of liquid freshwater. This raises the question how fast the accumulated liquid freshwater will be exported from the Arctic Ocean to the deep water formation regions in the North Atlantic and if an increased export will occur through the Fram Strait.
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