Formation of Barents Sea Branch Water in the north-eastern Barents Sea
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionPolar Research 2013, 32, 18905, http://dx.doi.org/10.3402/polar.v32i0.18905 10.3402/polar.v32i0.18905
The Barents Sea throughflow accounts for approximately half of the Atlantic Water advection to the Arctic Ocean, while the other half flows through Fram Strait. Within the Barents Sea, the Atlantic Water undergoes considerable modifications before entering the Arctic Ocean through the St. Anna Trough. While the inflow area in the south-western Barents Sea is regularly monitored, oceanographic data from the outflow area to the north-east are very scarce. Here, we use conductivity, temperature and depth data from August/September 2008 to describe in detail the water masses present in the downstream area of the Barents Sea, their spatial distribution and transformations. Both Cold Deep Water, formed locally through winter convection and ice-freezing processes, and Atlantic Water, modified mainly through atmospheric cooling, contribute directly to the Barents Sea Branch Water. As a consequence, it consists of a dense core characterized by a temperature and salinity maximum associated with the Atlantic Water, in addition to the colder, less saline and less dense core commonly referred to as the Barents Sea Branch Water core. The denser core likely constitutes a substantial part of the total flow, and it is more saline and considerably denser than the Fram Strait branch as observed within the St. Anna Trough. Despite the recent warming of the Barents Sea, the Barents Sea Branch Water is denser than observed in the 1990s, and the bottom water observed in the St. Anna Trough matches the potential density at 2000 m depth in the Arctic Ocean.