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ArticleThe contrasting dynamics of the buoyancy-forced Lofoten and Greenland Basins(American Meteorological Society, 2020-04-27) Ypma, Stefanie ; Spall, Michael A. ; Lambert, Erwin ; Georgiou, Sotiria ; Pietrazak, Julie D. ; Katsman, Caroline A.The Nordic seas are commonly described as a single basin to investigate their dynamics and sensitivity to environmental changes when using a theoretical framework. Here, we introduce a conceptual model for a two-basin marginal sea that better represents the Nordic seas geometry. In our conceptual model, the marginal sea is characterized by both a cyclonic boundary current and a front current as a result of different hydrographic properties east and west of the midocean ridge. The theory is compared to idealized model simulations and shows good agreement over a wide range of parameter settings, indicating that the physics in the two-basin marginal sea is well captured by the conceptual model. The balances between the atmospheric buoyancy forcing and the lateral eddy heat fluxes from the boundary current and the front current differ between the Lofoten and the Greenland Basins, since the Lofoten Basin is more strongly eddy dominated. Results show that this asymmetric sensitivity leads to opposing responses depending on the strength of the atmospheric buoyancy forcing. Additionally, the front current plays an essential role for the heat and volume budget of the two basins, by providing an additional pathway for heat toward the interior of both basins via lateral eddy heat fluxes. The variability of the temperature difference between east and west influences the strength of the different flow branches through the marginal sea and provides a dynamical explanation for the observed correlation between the front current and the slope current of the Norwegian Atlantic Current in the Nordic seas.
ArticleOn the dynamics and water mass transformation of a boundary current connecting alpha and beta oceans(American Meteorological Society, 2018-10-19) Lambert, Erwin ; Eldevik, Tor ; Spall, Michael A.A subpolar marginal sea, like the Nordic seas, is a transition zone between the temperature-stratified subtropics (the alpha ocean) and the salinity-stratified polar regions (the beta ocean). An inflow of Atlantic Water circulates these seas as a boundary current that is cooled and freshened downstream, eventually to outflow as Deep and Polar Water. Stratification in the boundary region is dominated by a thermocline over the continental slope and a halocline over the continental shelves, separating Atlantic Water from Deep and Polar Water, respectively. A conceptual model is introduced for the circulation and water mass transformation in a subpolar marginal sea to explore the potential interaction between the alpha and beta oceans. Freshwater input into the shelf regions has a slight strengthening effect on the Atlantic inflow, but more prominently impacts the water mass composition of the outflow. This impact of freshwater, characterized by enhancing Polar Water outflow and suppressing Deep Water outflow, is strongly determined by the source location of freshwater. Concretely, perturbations in upstream freshwater sources, like the Baltic freshwater outflow into the Nordic seas, have an order of magnitude larger potential to impact water mass transports than perturbations in downstream sources like the Arctic freshwater outflow. These boundary current dynamics are directly related to the qualitative stratification in transition zones and illustrate the interaction between the alpha and beta oceans.