An Observational Estimate of Volume and Freshwater Flux Leaving the Arctic Ocean through Nares Strait

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  • The Arctic Ocean is an important link in the global hydrological cycle, storing freshwater and releasing it to the North Atlantic Ocean in a variable fashion as pack ice and freshened seawater. An unknown fraction of this return flow passes through Nares Strait between northern Canada and Greenland. Surveys of ocean current and salinity in Nares Strait were completed in the summer of 2003. High-resolution data acquired by ship-based acoustic Doppler current profiler and via hydrographic casts revealed subtidal volume and freshwater fluxes of 0.8 ± 0.3 Sv and –25 ± 12 mSv (Sv = 10³ mSv = 10⁶ m³ s⁻¹), respectively. The observations resolved the dominant spatial scale of variability, the internal Rossby radius of deformation (L[subscript]D ~9 km), and revealed a complex, yet coherent along-channel flow with a Rossby number of about 0.13, close to geostrophic balance. Approximately one-third of the total volume flux was associated with across-channel slope of the sea surface and two-thirds (68%) with across-channel slope of isopycnal surfaces. During the period of observation, sustained wind from the southwest weakened the average down-channel flow at the surface. The speed of tidal currents exceeded subtidal components by a factor of 2. Tidal signals were resolved and removed from the observations here using two independent methods resolving horizontal and vertical variability of tidal properties, respectively. Tidal current predictions from a barotropic model agreed well with depth-averaged observations in both amplitude and phase. However, because estimates of freshwater flux require accurate surface currents (and salinity), a least squares fitting procedure using velocity data was judged more reliable, since it permits quantification of vertical tidal current variations.
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  • Münchow, Andreas, Humfrey Melling, Kelly K. Falkner, 2006: An Observational Estimate of Volume and Freshwater Flux Leaving the Arctic Ocean through Nares Strait. Journal of Physical Oceanography, 36, 2025–2041.
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  • 36
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  • 11
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  • We gratefully acknowledge that the material of this study is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grants 0230236 (AM and HM), 0230354 (KKF), and 0230427 (MS).
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