Tidally induced lateral dispersion of the Storfjorden overflow plume
Abstract. We investigate the flow of brine-enriched shelf water from Storfjorden (Svalbard) into Fram Strait and onto the western Svalbard Shelf using a regional set-up of NEMO-SHELF, a 3-D numerical ocean circulation model. The model is set up with realistic bathymetry, atmospheric forcing, open boundary conditions and tides. The model has 3 km horizontal resolution and 50 vertical levels in the sh-coordinate system which is specially designed to resolve bottom boundary layer processes. In a series of modelling experiments we focus on the influence of tides on the propagation of the dense water plume by comparing results from tidal and non-tidal model runs. Comparisons of non-tidal to tidal simulations reveal a hotspot of tidally induced horizontal diffusion leading to the lateral dispersion of the plume at the southernmost headland of Spitsbergen which is in close proximity to the plume path. As a result the lighter fractions in the diluted upper layer of the plume are drawn into the shallow coastal current that carries Storfjorden water onto the western Svalbard Shelf, while the dense bottom layer continues to sink down the slope. This bifurcation of the plume into a diluted shelf branch and a dense downslope branch is enhanced by tidally induced shear dispersion at the headland. Tidal effects at the headland are shown to cause a net reduction in the downslope flux of Storfjorden water into the deep Fram Strait. This finding contrasts previous results from observations of a dense plume on a different shelf without abrupt topography.