Articles | Volume 8, issue 2
Review article
03 Apr 2012
Review article |  | 03 Apr 2012

Arctic Ocean circulation and variability – advection and external forcing encounter constraints and local processes

B. Rudels

Abstract. The first hydrographic data from the Arctic Ocean, the section from the Laptev Sea to the passage between Greenland and Svalbard obtained by Nansen on his drift with Fram 1893–1896, aptly illustrate the main features of Arctic Ocean oceanography and indicate possible processes active in transforming the water masses in the Arctic Ocean. Many, perhaps most, processes were identified already by Nansen, who put his mark on almost all subsequent research in the Arctic. Here we shall revisit some key questions and follow how our understanding has evolved from the early 20th century to present. What questions, if any, can now be regarded as solved and which remain still open? Five different but connected topics will be discussed: (1) The low salinity surface layer and the storage and export of freshwater. (2) The vertical heat transfer from the Atlantic water to sea ice and to the atmosphere. (3) The circulation and mixing of the two Atlantic inflow branches. (4) The formation and circulation of deep and bottom waters in the Arctic Ocean. (5) The exchanges through Fram Strait. Foci will be on the potential effects of increased freshwater input and reduced sea ice export on the freshwater storage and residence time in the Arctic Ocean, on the deep waters of the Makarov Basin, and on the circulation and relative importance of the two inflows, over the Barents Sea and through Fram Strait, for the distribution of heat in the intermediate layers of the Arctic Ocean.