Effects of glacier runoff and wind on surface layer dynamics and Atlantic Water exchange in Kongsfjorden, Svalbard; a model study

Arild Sundfjord, J Albretsen, Yoshi Kasajima, Ragnheid Skogseth, J Kohler, C Nuth, J. Skardhamar, Finlo Cottier, Frank Nilsen, Lars Asplin, S Gerland, T Torsvik

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A high resolution numerical ocean circulation model has been used to investigate exchange mechanisms and transport of thermal energy towards the inner part of Kongsfjorden, Svalbard; a location where tidewater glaciers expose large calving fronts to the ocean water and sea ice has been a regular winter feature until recently. Comparison of model simulations against a large set of observational data shows that the model captures the main features of seasonality and geographical distribution of hydrography. The model is able to simulate inflow of Atlantic Water although the timing, strength and depth of inflow events are not always the same in the model as in mooring records. The model shows water entering via the shelf consistently penetrating deep into the fjord, and volume transport toward the interior parts are large even under winter conditions. Heat transports are smaller in winter than in summer due to generally lower winter temperatures. Results indicate that glacial freshwater discharge in the surface layer is not a necessary factor for driving sub-surface exchange; rather, along-fjord winds stand out as important for the circulation and hence water exchange in the inner part of the fjord. The combination of inflow of Atlantic Water from the outer shelf into the central part of the fjord, and further transport of mixed water masses with intermediate heat content toward the inner part, constitutes a significant transfer of thermal energy from the outer shelf and deep into the fjord. The potential for glacier front melting is larger in summer than in winter as heat transports are larger this time of year, while even modest heat transports in the upper part of the water column may influence the sea ice cover in winter.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)260-272
Number of pages13
JournalEstuarine Coastal and Shelf Science
Early online date30 Jan 2017
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2017


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