Shelf/fjord exchange driven by coastal-trapped waves in the Arctic

Mark E. Inall, Frank Nilsen, Finlo R. Cottier, Ragnhild Daae

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In this article, we show that the class of low frequency (subinertial) waves known as coastal-trapped waves (CTWs) are a significant agent of water volume exchange in a west Svalbard fjord, and by extension more widely along the west Svalbard and east Greenland margins where similar conditions prevail. We show that CTWs generated by weather systems passing across the sloping topography of the shelf break propagate into the fjord, steered by the topography of an across-shelf trough. The CTWs have characteristic periods of ∼2 days, set by the passage time of weather systems. Phase speeds and wavelengths vary seasonally by a factor of two, according to stratification: winter (summer) values are Cp = 0.25 ms−1 (0.5 ms−1) and λ = 40 km (84 km). CTW-induced flow velocities in excess of 0.2 ms−1 at 100 m water depth are recorded. Observationally scaled CTW model results allow their explicit role in volume exchange to be quantified. Of the estimated exchange terms, estuarine exchange is weakest ( inline image m3s−1), followed by barotropic tidal pumping ( inline image m3s−1), with intermediary exchange dominating ( inline image m3s−1). Oscillatory flows display greatest activity in the 1–5 day period band, and CTW activity is identified as the likely source of variability in the 40–60 h period band. Within that band, intermediary exchange driven by CTWs is estimated as inline image m3s−1; an exchange rate exceeding both barotropic and estuarine exchange estimates.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)8283-8303
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research-Oceans
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 28 Dec 2015


  • Arctic
  • exchange
  • fjords
  • trapped waves


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