Observations of water masses and circulation with focus on the Eurasian Basin of the Arctic Ocean from the 1990s to the late 2000s
Abstract. The circulation and water mass properties in the Eurasian Basin are discussed based on a review of previous research and an examination of observations made in recent years within, or parallel to, DAMOCLES (Developing Arctic Modeling and Observational Capabilities for Long-term Environmental Studies). The discussion is strongly biased towards observations made from icebreakers and particularly from the cruise with R/V Polarstern 2007 during the International Polar Year (IPY). Focus is on the Barents Sea inflow branch and its mixing with the Fram Strait inflow branch. It is proposed that the Barents Sea branch contributes not just intermediate water but also most of the water to the Atlantic layer in the Amundsen Basin and also in the Makarov and Canada basins. Only occasionally would high temperature pulses originating from the Fram Strait branch penetrate along the Laptev Sea slope across the Gakkel Ridge into the Amundsen Basin. Interactions between the Barents Sea and the Fram Strait branches lead to formation of intrusive layers, in the Atlantic layer and in the intermediate waters. The intrusion characteristics found downstream, north of the Laptev Sea are similar to those observed in the northern Nansen Basin and over the Gakkel Ridge, suggesting a flow from the Laptev Sea towards Fram Strait. The formation mechanisms for the intrusions at the continental slope, or in the interior of the basins if they are reformed there, have not been identified. The temperature of the deep water of the Eurasian Basin has increased in the last 10 yr rather more than expected from geothermal heating. That geothermal heating does influence the deep water column was obvious from 2007 Polarstern observations made close to a hydrothermal vent in the Gakkel Ridge, where the temperature minimum usually found above the 600–800 m thick homogenous bottom layer was absent. However, heat entrained from the Atlantic water into descending, saline boundary plumes may also contribute to the warming of the deeper layers.