Causes of the anomalous heat flux onto the Greenland continental shelf

Monday, December 10, 2018 - 13:40
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On the continental shelf around Greenland, warm-salty Atlantic water at depth fills the deep narrow fjords where Greenland’s tidewater glaciers terminate. Changes in the quantity or properties of this water mass starting in the mid 1990s is thought to be largely responsible for increased ocean-driven melting of the Greenland Ice Sheet. Using high-resolution (nominal 0.1-degree) ocean circulation models we cannot accurately resolve small-scale processes on the shelf or within fjords. However, we can assess changes in the flux of heat via Atlantic water onto the continental shelf. To understand the causes of the anomalous heat that has reached the shelf we examine heat content of subtropical gyre water and shifts in the North Atlantic and Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillations.

We compare changes in heat transport in two eddy permitting simulations: a global 0.1 degree (5-7km around Greenland) resolution coupled hindcast (1970-2009) simulation of the Parallel Ocean Program (POP) and a regional 0.08 degree (3-5km around Greenland) resolution coupled HYbrid Coordinate Ocean Model (HYCOM) hindcast (1993-2016) simulation. Both models are coupled to the Los Alamos National Laboratory Community Ice CodE version 4 and forced by atmospheric reanalysis fluxes. In both models we look for processes that could explain the increase in heat; processes that are present in both are likely to be robust causes of warming.

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