Ocean convection linked to the recent ice edge retreat along east Greenland
Spall, Michael A.
Moore, G. W. K.
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Warm subtropical-origin Atlantic water flows northward across the Greenland-Scotland Ridge into the Nordic Seas, where it relinquishes heat to the atmosphere and gradually transforms into dense Atlantic-origin water. Returning southward along east Greenland, this water mass is situated beneath a layer of cold, fresh surface water and sea ice. Here we show, using measurements from autonomous ocean gliders, that the Atlantic-origin water was re-ventilated while transiting the western Iceland Sea during winter. This re-ventilation is a recent phenomenon made possible by the retreat of the ice edge toward Greenland. The fresh surface layer that characterises this region in summer is diverted onto the Greenland shelf by enhanced onshore Ekman transport induced by stronger northerly winds in fall and winter. Severe heat loss from the ocean offshore of the ice edge subsequently triggers convection, which further transforms the Atlantic-origin water. This re-ventilation is a counterintuitive occurrence in a warming climate, and highlights the difficulties inherent in predicting the behaviour of the complex coupled climate system.
© The Author(s), 2018. This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License. The definitive version was published in Nature Communications 9 (2018): 1287, doi:10.1038/s41467-018-03468-6.
Suggested CitationNature Communications 9 (2018): 1287
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