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Publication Date
9 April 2024

Sensitivities of the West Greenland Current to Greenland Ice Sheet Meltwater in a Mesoscale Ocean/Sea ice Model



Meltwater from the Greenland Ice Sheet can alter the continental shelf/slope circulation, cross-shelf freshwater fluxes, and limit deep convection in adjacent basins through surface freshening. We explore the impacts on the West Greenland Current and Eastern Labrador Sea with different vertical distributions of the meltwater forcing. In this study, we present results from global coupled ocean/sea-ice simulations, forced with atmospheric reanalysis, that are mesoscale eddy-active (~2–3 km horizontal spacing) and eddy-permitting (~6–7 km horizontal spacing) in the study region. We compare the West Greenland Current in mesoscale eddy-active and eddy-permitting without meltwater to highlight the role of small scale features. The mesoscale eddy-active configuration is then used to assess the change in the Eastern Labrador Sea when meltwater is added to the surface or vertically distributed to account for mixing within fjords. In both simulations with meltwater, the West Greenland and West Greenland Coastal Currents are faster than in the simulation with no meltwater; their mean surface speeds are highest in the vertical distribution case. In the latter case, there is enhanced baroclinic conversion at the shelf break compared to the simulation with no meltwater. When meltwater is vertically distributed, there is an increase in baroclinic conversion at the shelf break associated with increased eddy kinetic energy. In addition, in the Eastern Labrador Sea the salinity is lower and the meltwater volume greater when meltwater is vertically distributed. Therefore, the West Greenland Current is sensitive to how meltwater is added to the ocean with implications for the freshening of the Labrador Sea.

Morrison, Theresa J., Julie L. McClean, Sarah T. Gille, Mathew E. Maltrud, Detelina P. Ivanova, and Anthony P. Craig. 2024. “Sensitivities Of The West Greenland Current To Greenland Ice Sheet Meltwater In A Mesoscale Ocean/Sea Ice Model”. Journal Of Physical Oceanography. American Meteorological Society. doi:10.1175/jpo-d-23-0102.1.
Funding Program Area(s)
Additional Resources:
NERSC (National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center)