Thermohaline circulation in the Arctic Mediterranean Seas


  • K. Aagaard,

  • J. H. Swift,

  • E. C. Carmack


The renewal of the deep North Atlantic by the various overflows of the Greenland-Scotland ridges is only one manifestation of the convective and mixing processes which occur in the various basins and shelf areas to the north: the Arctic Ocean and the Greenland, Iceland, and Norwegian seas, collectively called the Arctic Mediterranean. The traditional site of deep ventilation for these basins is the Greenland Sea, but a growing body of evidence also points to the Arctic Ocean as a major source of deep water. This deep water is relatively warm and saline, and it appears to be a mixture of dense, brine-enriched shelf water with intermediate strata in the Arctic Ocean. The deep water exits the Arctic Ocean along the Greenland slope to mix with the Greenland Sea deep water. Conversely, very cold low-salinity deep water from the Greenland Sea enters the Arctic Ocean west of Spitsbergen. Within the Arctic Ocean, the Lomonosov Ridge excludes the Greenland Sea deep water from the Canadian Basin, leaving the latter warm, saline, and rich in silica. In general, the entire deep-water sphere of the Arctic Mediterranean is constrained by the Greenland-Scotland ridges to circulate internally. Therefore it is certain of the intermediate waters formed in the Greenland and Iceland seas which ventilate the North Atlantic. These waters have a very short residence time in their formation areas and are therefore able to rapidly transmit surface-induced signals into the deep North Atlantic.