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Discussion papers
https://doi.org/10.5194/os-2018-86
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/os-2018-86
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 17 Aug 2018

Research article | 17 Aug 2018

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This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal Ocean Science (OS).

Hydrography, transport and mixing of the West Spitsbergen Current: the Svalbard Branch in summer 2015

Eivind Kolås and Ilker Fer Eivind Kolås and Ilker Fer
  • Geophysical Institute, University of Bergen, Bergen, Norway

Abstract. Measurements of ocean currents, stratification and microstructure were made in August 2015, northwest of Svalbard, downstream of the Atlantic inflow in Fram Strait in the Arctic Ocean. Observations in three sections are used to characterize the evolution of the West Spitsbergen Current (WSC) along a 170-km downstream distance. Two alternative calculations imply 1.5 to 2Sv (1Sv=106m3s−1) is routed to recirculation and Yermak branch in Fram Strait, whereas 0.6 to 1.3Sv is carried by the Svalbard branch. The WSC cools at a rate of 0.20°C per 100km, with associated bulk heat loss per along-path meter of (1.1–1.4)x107Wm−1, corresponding to a surface heat loss of 380–550Wm−2. The measured turbulent heat flux is too small to account for this cooling rate. Estimates using a plausible range of parameters suggest that the contribution of diffusion by eddies could be limited to one half of the observed heat loss. In addition to shear-driven mixing beneath the WSC core, we observe energetic convective mixing of an unstable bottom boundary layer on the slope, driven by Ekman advection of buoyant water across the slope. The estimated lateral buoyancy flux is O(10−8)Wkg−1, sufficient to maintain a large fraction of the observed dissipation rates, and corresponds to a heat flux of approximately 400Wm−2. Convectively-driven bottom mixing followed by the detachment of the mixed fluid, and its transfer into the ocean interior can lead to substantial cooling of the WSC, at a rate comparable to that expected from diffusion by eddies.

Eivind Kolås and Ilker Fer
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Eivind Kolås and Ilker Fer
Eivind Kolås and Ilker Fer
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Short summary
Measurements of ocean currents, stratification and microstructure collected northwest of Svalbard are used to characterize the evolution of the warm Atlantic current. The measured turbulent heat flux is too small to account for the observed cooling rate of the current. Estimated contribution of diffusion by eddies could be limited to one half of the observed heat loss. Mixing in the bottom boundary layer, driven by cross-slope flow of buoyant water, can account for the remaining heat loss.
Measurements of ocean currents, stratification and microstructure collected northwest of...
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