Articles | Volume 18, issue 6
Ann. Geophys., 18, 687–705, 2000
Ann. Geophys., 18, 687–705, 2000

  30 Jun 2000

30 Jun 2000

Water mass distribution in Fram Strait and over the Yermak Plateau in summer 1997

B. Rudels1, R. Meyer2, E. Fahrbach2, V. V. Ivanov3, S. Østerhus4, D. Quadfasel5, U. Schauer2, V. Tverberg6, and R. A. Woodgate7 B. Rudels et al.
  • 1Finnish Institute of Marine Research, Lyypekinkuja 3A, P.O. PL33, FIN-00931 Helsinki, Finland
  • e-mail: rudels@®
  • 2Alfred-Wegener-Institut für Polar und Meeresforschung, Columbus straße, Postfach 120161, D-27515 Bremerhaven, Germany
  • 3Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute, Ocean/Atmosphere Department, 38, Bering Street, 199397 St. Petersburg, Russia
  • 4Geophysical Institute, University of Bergen, Allégaten 70, N-5007 Bergen, Norway
  • 5Niels Bohr Institute for Astronomy, Physics and Geophysics, University of Copenhagen, Juliane Maries Vej 30 DK-2100 Copenhagen Ø, Denmark
  • 6University Courses of Svalbard, Geophysics Marine Research, Postboks 156/157, N-9170 Longyearbyen, Norway
  • 7Applied Physics Laboratory, University of Washington, 1013 NE 40th Street, Seattle, Washington 98105-6698, USA
  • Correspondence to: B. Rudels

Abstract. The water mass distribution in northern Fram Strait and over the Yermak Plateau in summer 1997 is described using CTD data from two cruises in the area. The West Spitsbergen Current was found to split, one part recirculated towards the west, while the other part, on entering the Arctic Ocean separated into two branches. The main inflow of Atlantic Water followed the Svalbard continental slope eastward, while a second, narrower, branch stayed west and north of the Yermak Plateau. The water column above the southeastern flank of the Yermak Plateau was distinctly colder and less saline than the two inflow branches. Immediately west of the outer inflow branch comparatively high temperatures in the Atlantic Layer suggested that a part of the extraordinarily warm Atlantic Water, observed in the boundary current in the Eurasian Basin in the early 1990s, was now returning, within the Eurasian Basin, toward Fram Strait. The upper layer west of the Yermak Plateau was cold, deep and comparably saline, similar to what has recently been observed in the interior Eurasian Basin. Closer to the Greenland continental slope the salinity of the upper layer became much lower, and the temperature maximum of the Atlantic Layer was occasionally below 
0.5 °C, indicating water masses mainly derived from the Canadian Basin. This implies that the warm pulse of Atlantic Water had not yet made a complete circuit around the Arctic Ocean. The Atlantic Water of the West Spitsbergen Current recirculating within the strait did not extend as far towards Greenland as in the 1980s, leaving a broader passage for waters from the Atlantic and intermediate layers, exiting the Arctic Ocean. A possible interpretation is that the circulation pattern alternates between a strong recirculation of the West Spitsbergen Current in the strait, and a larger exchange of Atlantic Water between the Nordic Seas and the inner parts of the Arctic Ocean.

Key words: Oceanography: general (Arctic and Antarctic oceanography; water masses) - Oceanography: physical (general circulation)