Labrador Sea freshening linked to Beaufort Gyre freshwater release
The Beaufort Gyre (BG), the largest Arctic Ocean freshwater reservoir, has drastically increased its liquid freshwater content by 40% in the past two decades. If released within a short period, the excess freshwater could potentially impact the large-scale ocean circulation by freshening the upper subpolar North Atlantic. Here, we track BG-sourced freshwater using passive tracers in a global ocean sea-ice model and show that this freshwater exited the Arctic mostly through the Canadian Arctic Archipelago, rather than Fram Strait, during an historical release event in 1983–1995. The Labrador Sea is the most affected region in the subpolar North Atlantic, with a freshening of 0.2 psu on the western shelves and 0.4 psu in the Labrador Current. Given that the present BG freshwater content anomaly is twice the historical analog studied here, the impact of a future rapid release on Labrador Sea salinity could be significant, easily exceeding similar fluxes from Greenland meltwater.