Origin of freshwater and polynya water in the Arctic Ocean halocline in summer 2007

Extremely low summer sea-ice coverage in the Arctic Ocean in 2007 allowed extensive sampling and a wide quasi-synoptic hydrographic and δ18O dataset could be collected in the Eurasian Basin and the Makarov Basin up to the Alpha Ridge and the East Siberian continental margin. With the aim of determining the origin of freshwater in the halocline, fractions of river water and sea-ice meltwater in the upper 150 m were quantified by a combination of salinity and δ18O in the Eurasian Basin. Two methods, applying the preformed phosphate concentration (PO*) and the nitrate-to-phosphate ratio (N/P), were compared to further differentiate the marine fraction into Atlantic and Pacific-derived contributions. While PO*-based assessments systematically underestimate the contribution of Pacific-derived waters, N/P-based calculations overestimate Pacific-derived waters within the Transpolar Drift due to denitrification in bottom sediments at the Laptev Sea continental margin. Within the Eurasian Basin a west to east oriented front between net melting and production of sea-ice is observed. Outside the Atlantic regime dominated by net sea-ice melting, a pronounced layer influenced by brines released during sea-ice formation is present at about 30–50 m water depth with a maximum over the Lomonosov Ridge. The geographically distinct definition of this maximum demonstrates the rapid release and transport of signals from the shelf regions in discrete pulses within the Transpolar Drift. The ratio of sea-ice derived brine influence and river water is roughly constant within each layer of the Arctic Ocean halocline. The correlation between brine influence and river water reveals two clusters that can be assigned to the two main mechanisms of sea-ice formation within the Arctic Ocean. Over the open ocean or in polynyas at the continental slope where relatively small amounts of river water are found, sea-ice formation results in a linear correlation between brine influence and river water at salinities of about 32–34. In coastal polynyas in the shallow regions of the Laptev Sea and southern Kara Sea, sea-ice formation transports river water into the shelf’s bottom layer due to the close proximity to the river mouths. This process therefore results in waters that form a second linear correlation between brine influence and river water at salinities of about 30–32. Our study indicates which layers of the Arctic Ocean halocline are primarily influenced by sea-ice formation in coastal polynyas and which layers are primarily influenced by sea-ice formation over the open ocean. Accordingly we use the ratio of sea-ice derived brine influence and river water to link the maximum in brine influence within the Transpolar Drift with a pulse of shelf waters from the Laptev Sea that was likely released in summer 2005.


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Authors: Bauch, Dorothea, Rutgers van der Loeff, Michiel, Andersen, Nils, Torres-Valdes, Sinhue, Bakker, Karel, Abrahamsen, Povl ORCIDORCID record for Povl Abrahamsen

On this site: Povl Abrahamsen
1 January, 2011
Progress in Oceanography / 91
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