On large outflows of Arctic sea ice into the Barents Sea



[1] Winter outflows of Arctic sea ice into the Barents Sea are estimated using a 10-year record of satellite ice motion and thickness. The mean winter volume export through the Svalbard/Franz Josef Land passage is 40 km3, and ranges from −280 km3 to 340 km3. A large outflow in 2003 is preconditioned by an unusually high concentration of thick perennial ice over the Nansen Basin at the end of the 2002 summer. With a deep atmospheric low situated over the eastern Barents Sea in winter, the result is an increased export of Arctic ice. The Oct-Mar ice area flux, at 110 × 103 km2, is not only unusual in magnitude but also remarkable in that >70% of the area is multiyear ice; the ice volume flux at ∼340 km3 is almost one-fifth of the ice flux through the Fram Strait. Another large outflow of Arctic sea ice through this passage, comparable to that in 2003, is found in 1996. This southward flux of sea ice represents one of two major sources of freshwater in the Barents Sea; the other is the eastward flux of water via the Norwegian Coastal Current. The possible consequences of variable freshwater input on the Barents Sea hydrography and its impact on transformation of Atlantic Water en route to the Arctic Ocean are examined with a 25-year coupled ice-ocean model.