Atlantic water flow through the Barents and Kara Seas

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The pathway and transformation of water from the Norwegian Sea across the Barents Sea and through the St. Anna Trough are documented from hydrographic and current measurements of the 1990s. The transport through an array of moorings in the north-eastern Barents Sea was between 0.6 Sv in summer and 2.6 Sv in winter towards the Kara Sea and between zero and 0.3 Sv towards the Barents Sea with a record mean net flow of 1.5 Sv. The westward flow originates in the Fram Strait branch of Atlantic Water at the Eurasian continental slope, while the eastward flow constitutes the Barents Sea branch, continuing from the western Barents Sea opening.About 75% of the eastward flow was colder than 0°C. The flow was strongly sheared, with the highest velocities close to the bottom. A deep layer with almost constant temperature of about -0.5°C throughout the year formed about 50% of the flow to the Kara Sea. This water was a mixture between warm saline Atlantic Water and cold, brine-enriched water generated through freezing and convection in polynyas west of Novaya Zemlya, and possibly also at the Central Bank. Its salinity is lower than that of the Atlantic Water at its entrance to the Barents Sea, because the ice formation occurs in a low salinity surface layer. The released brine increases the salinity and density of the surface layer sufficiently for it to convect, but not necessarily above the salinity of the Atlantic Water. The fresh-water west of Novaya Zemlya primarily stems from continental runoff and at the Central Bank probably from ice melt. The amount of fresh water compares to about 22% of the terrestrial fresh water supply to the western Barents Sea. The deep layer continues to the Kara Sea without further change and enters the Nansen Basin at or below the core depth of the warm, saline Fram Strait branch. Because it is colder than 0°C it will not be addressed as Atlantic Water in the Arctic Ocean.In earlier decades, the Atlantic Water advected from Fram Strait was colder by almost 2K as compared to the 1990s, while the dense Barents Sea water was colder by up to 1K only in a thin layer at the bottom and the salinity varied significantly. However, also with the resulting higher densities, deep Eurasian Basin water properties were met only in the seventies. The very low salinities of the Great Salinity Anomaly in 1980 were not discovered in the outflow data. We conclude that the thermal variability of inflowing Atlantic water is damped in the Barents Sea, while the salinity variation is strongly modified through the fresh water conditions and ice growth in the convective area off Novaya Zemlya.

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Schauer, U. , Loeng, H. , Rudels, B. , Ozhigin, V. K. and Dieck, W. (2002): Atlantic water flow through the Barents and Kara Seas , Deep-Sea Research I, 49, 12, pp., pp. 2281-2298 .

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