Mechanisms for variable North Atlantic–Nordic seas exchanges

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Abstract

[1] The variable oceanic exchanges between the Nordic seas and the Atlantic proper have been investigated using an isopycnic coordinate ocean model for the period 1948–2007. Observed and simulated time series of volume transports in the Denmark Strait (DS), between Iceland and the Faroe Islands, and in the Faroe-Shetland Channel (FSC) are used to evaluate the model, and the model captures much of the variability. The inflow of Atlantic Water in the FSC and the outflow of light Polar Water in the DS and of dense Overflow Water in both FSC and DS are all found to covary with an atmospheric pattern resembling the North Atlantic Oscillation. An increase in the FSC inflow is associated with a decrease in the FSC overflow and an increase in the DS overflow. The exchanges' response to the atmospheric forcing is mainly of a barotropic nature, but they are also influenced by baroclinic processes. The modeled antiphase between FSC inflow and overflow is connected to a vertical displacement of the isopycnal separating the two water masses in the channel and along the path of the Norwegian Atlantic Slope Current, consistent with hydraulic control of the FSC exchanges.

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