Exchanges between oceanic and coastal waters are fundamental in setting the hydrography of arctic shelves and fjords. In West Spitsbergen, Atlantic Water from the West Spitsbergen Current exchanges with the seasonally ice-covered waters of the coast and fjords causing a major annual shift in hydrographic conditions. The extent to which Atlantic Water dominates the fjord systems shows significant interannual variability. Hydrographic sections taken between 1999 and 2005 from Isfjorden and the adjacent shelf have been analyzed to identify the causes of the variability in Atlantic Water occupation of the fjord system. By treating the fjord system as a coastal polynya and running a polynya model to quantify the salt release each winter, we conclude that the critical parameter controlling fjord-shelf exchange is the density difference between the fjord water masses and the Atlantic Water. We provide a full dynamical mechanism for the interaction between water masses at the fjord entrance to rationalize the interannual variability. (C) 2008 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
- COASTAL POLYNYAS