The release of brine-enriched shelf water from Storfjord into the Norwegian Sea


  • Ursula Schauer


Brine-enriched water masses are formed through surface cooling, freezing, and subsequent convective mixing and can be accumulated at the bottom of Arctic shelves. Time series from moored instruments over 1 year (1991/1992) in the northwestern Barents Sea reveal the flow of such water from a generation area in the coastal polynya in the Storfjord of Svalbard toward the western shelf edge. A volume of the order of 1012 m3 of cold, brine-enriched shelf water was released from this site into the Norwegian Sea during 5 months. The salinity of almost the entire water mass (96%) ranged between 34.8 and 35.1 practical salinity units. The source water of the observed outflow was provided by the East Spitsbergen Current advecting Arctic Water during summer and early winter and a mixture of Arctic and Atlantic Water during late winter. Owing to the broad salinity range, brine-enriched shelf water from the northwestern Barents Sea acts as a freshwater source for intermediate and as a salt source for deep waters of the Norwegian and Nansen Basins.