Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans

On climatological mass, heat, and salt transports through the Barents Sea and Fram Strait from a pan-Arctic coupled ice-ocean model simulation



[1] The northward flow of Atlantic Water via the Barents Sea and Fram Strait is modeled, and climatological volume, heat, and salt fluxes into the Arctic Ocean are investigated. We argue that understanding of climate change in the region requires the knowledge of the mean circulation before its variability can be determined. Since estimates of long-term mean fluxes in the region are not available from observations, we present a modeling approach to quantify the climatological circulation and northward transports from the Norwegian Sea into the Arctic Ocean. A coupled ice-ocean model of the pan-Arctic region is configured at a 1/12° and 45-level grid and is integrated for 7 decades using a combination of daily-averaged 1979–2001 European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts data. Simulated water mass characteristics are compared with climatological atlas and selected observational data. The separation of the Norwegian Atlantic Current into Barents Sea and Fram Strait branches and their relative contributions to the total mass and property input into the Arctic Ocean are quantified. We emphasize the Barents Sea because fewer direct measurements of transports exist there and because water masses are significantly altered along this path by the seasonal ice melt/formation and the freshwater inputs. Under the given atmospheric forcing the Barents Sea outflow is shown to significantly contribute to the boundary flow continuing along the slopes of the Arctic Ocean. On the basis of model results, we argue that the contribution of the Barents Sea branch of Atlantic Water into the Arctic Ocean is equally, if not more, important than the Fram Strait branch.