Climate-Driven Change in the North Atlantic and Arctic Oceans Can Greatly Reduce the Circulation of the North Sea

Jason Holt, Jeff Polton, John Huthnance, Sarah Wakelin, Enda O'dea, James Harle, Andrew Yool, Yuri Artioli, Jerry Blackford, John Siddorn, Mark Inall

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We demonstrate for the first time a direct oceanic link between climate‐driven change in the North Atlantic and Arctic Oceans and the circulation of the northwest European shelf seas. Downscaled scenarios show a shutdown of the exchange between the Atlantic and the North Sea and a substantial decrease in the circulation of the North Sea in the second half of the 21st century. The northern North Sea inflow decreases from 1.2–1.3 Sv (1 Sv = 106 m3/s) to 0.0–0.6 Sv with Atlantic water largely bypassing the North Sea. This is traced to changes in oceanic haline stratification and gyre structure and to a newly identified circulation‐salinity feedback. The scenario presented here is of a novel potential future state for the North Sea, with wide‐ranging environmental management and societal impacts. Specifically, the sea would become more estuarine and susceptible to anthropogenic influence with an enhanced risk of coastal eutrophication.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)11,827 - 11,836
Number of pages10
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number21
Early online date5 Nov 2018
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 5 Nov 2018



  • marine climate change impacts
  • ocean circulation
  • regional seas
  • coastal-ocean modelling
  • geostrophic dynamics
  • marine ecosystems

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