Arctic warming: Evolution and spreading of the 1990s warm event in the Nordic seas and the Arctic Ocean

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Abstract

[1] Observations in the Arctic Ocean revealed changes in oceanic temperature, salinity and ice cover of the 1990s as compared with earlier data. With a numerical model, we favorably reproduce the development and subsequent propagation of temperature anomalies in water of Atlantic origin in the 1980s and 1990s. These propagated into the Arctic Ocean via the Barents Sea and the Fram Strait. Two warm anomalies entered the Arctic Ocean through these passages. While the first smaller anomaly only warmed up the western Eurasian Basin, the second large anomaly spread far into the eastern Eurasian Basin and across the Lomonossov Ridge into the western Arctic basins. Intensified boundary currents during the high NAO state in the first half of the 1990s significantly influenced the amplitude and speed of propagation of the temperature anomalies inside the Arctic Ocean. In contrast to the notion of a continuous warming process during the 1990s, our model results suggest the warming of the Atlantic Layer in the Arctic Ocean occurred in the form of events. The event with the largest anomalous heat input during the modeled period entered the Arctic between 1989 and 1994. It is possible to trace back the additional heat input into the Arctic to an increased volume inflow via the Faroer-Scotland passage and reduced heat loss to the atmosphere in the early 1990s. After a weaker warm inflow in the second half of the 1990s, the most recent observations and the model results point to a recurring warm anomaly in the inflow from 1999 onward.

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