An isopycnal view of the Nordic Seas hydrography with focus on properties of the Lofoten Basin

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Few basins in the world exhibit such a wide range of water properties as those of the Nordic Seas with cold freshwaters from the Arctic in the western basins and warm saline waters from the Atlantic in the eastern basins. In this study we present a 50-year hydrographic climatology of the Nordic Seas in terms of depth and temperature patterns on four upper ocean specific volume anomaly surfaces. This approach allows us to better distinguish between change due to variations along such surfaces and change due to depth variations of the stratified water column. Depth variations indicate changes in the mass field while property variations along isopycnals give insight into isopycnal advection and mixing, as well as diapycnal processes. We find that the warmest waters on each surface are found in the north, close to where the isopycnal outcrops, a clear indication of downward mixing of the warmer, more saline waters on shallower isopycnals due to convective cooling at the surface. These saline waters come from the Norwegian Atlantic Slope Current by means of a very high level of eddy activity in the Lofoten Basin. The isopycnal analyses further show that the principal water mass boundary between the waters of Arctic origin in the west and Atlantic waters in the east aligns quite tightly with the Jan Mayen, Mohn, Knipovich Ridge system suggesting little cross-ridge exchange. Instead, the main routes of exchange between the eastern and western basins appear to be limited to the northern and southern ends of ridge system: Atlantic waters into the Greenland Sea in the Fram St and Artic waters into the southern Norwegian Sea just north of the Iceland-Faroe Ridge. Analysis of a representative isopycnal in the main pycnocline shows it to be stable over time with only small variations with season (except where it outcrops in winter in the Greenland and Iceland Seas). However, two very cold winters, 1968-1969, led to greater than average heat losses across the entire Lofoten Basin that eroded away much of the Lofoten eddy and induced the greatest temperature anomaly in the entire 50-year record. Interannual variations in isopycnal layer temperature correlate with the NAO index such that waters in the Iceland Sea become warmer than average with warming air temperatures and conversely in the Lofoten Basin. © 2009 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

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Deep-Sea Research Part I: Oceanographic Research Papers