Seasonal transformation of water masses, circulation and brine formation observed in Storfjorden, Svalbard

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The transformation of ocean water masses at high latitudes is closely related to the freezing and melting processes during the year. Downward salt fluxes from brine rejection during freezing increase the salinity and density of the water column underneath. Fresh-water input from river run-off and melting of sea ice reduces the density, mainly of the surface layer. Hydrographic profiles collected in Storfjorden, Svalbard, in spring and summer, show the strong seasonal and interannual variability of the water masses. Using, in addition, data from moorings, a ship-borne acoustic Doppler current profiler and drifting buoys, and results from models of ice drift, polynya evolution, ice formation and convection processes during freezing, we document the seasonal water-mass transformation and try to explain its interannual variability. The advection of ice and water through the two northern sounds and over the sill in the south of the fjord is examined. The release of brine-enriched bottom water over the sill must be balanced by advection from the Barents Sea in the upper layers. The interannual variability of the brine-enriched bottom layer is very high, and higher salinities are observed in a milder winter. The density anomaly resulting from freezing might depend more on the ice cover and geographical position of the polynya than on the total atmospheric forcing during winter.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: January 1, 2001

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  • The Annals of Glaciology is a peer-reviewed, thematic journal published 2 to 4 times a year by the International Glaciological Society (IGS). Publication frequency is determined and volume/issue numbers assigned by the IGS Council on a year-to-year basis and with a lead time of 3 to 4 years. The Annals of Glaciology is included in the ISI Science Citation Index from volume 50, number 50 onwards.

    Themes can be on any aspect of the study of snow and ice. Individual members can make a suggestion for a theme for an Annals issue to the Secretary General, who will forward it to the IGS Publications Committee. The IGS Publication Committee will make a recommendation for an individual themed Annals issue, together with a potential Annals Chief Editor for that issue, to IGS Council. The IGS Council will make the decision whether to proceed, taking into account the spread of topics and the overall capacity for publication of pages in Annals.

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