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Dominant terms in the freshwater and heat budgets of the subpolar North Atlantic Ocean and Nordic Seas from 1992 to 2015
  • Jan-Erik Tesdal,
  • Thomas W N Haine
Jan-Erik Tesdal
Columbia University

Corresponding Author:tesdal@ldeo.columbia.edu

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Thomas W N Haine
Johns Hopkins University
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The Arctic and subarctic oceans exhibit distinct decadal variations in freshwater and heat content. We describe freshwater and heat budgets with the ECCOv4 reanalysis product and compare budget variability and mechanisms within the subpolar North Atlantic Ocean, Nordic Seas and Labrador Sea from 1992 to 2015. For all regions, changes in freshwater content are largely anti-correlated with changes in heat content. Since 1995, the subpolar North Atlantic Ocean has undergone a decade of warming and salinification followed by ongoing cooling and freshening. The recent increase in freshwater content and the reduction in heat in the subpolar North Atlantic can largely be attributed to anomalous circulation of mean salinity and temperature, respectively. Interannual variability in heat and freshwater mostly corresponds to boundary fluxes from the subtropics. Meanwhile the Nordic Seas have undergone an overall warming and salinification from the mid-1990s to 2015. Salinification is primarily driven by reduced sea ice flux through Fram Strait, while warming is due to changes in both sea surface heating and advective flux. In the last five years, Labrador Sea freshwater convergence remained unchanged, as increased inflow via the Baffin Island Current is balanced by increased outflow via the Labrador Current. Hence the observed freshening of the Arctic Ocean is expected to be an increasingly important source of future freshwater increases in the subpolar North Atlantic. This stands in contrast to variability in freshwater flux from the subtropical North Atlantic, which is associated with variability in the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation.
Oct 2020Published in Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans volume 125 issue 10. 10.1029/2020JC016435