Water mass modification in an Arctic fjord through cross-shelf exchange: The seasonal hydrography of Kongsfjorden, Svalbard
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Kongsfjorden and the West Spitsbergen Shelf is a region whose seasonal hydrography is dominated by the balance of Atlantic Water, Arctic waters, and glacial melt. Regional seasonality and the cross-shelf exchange processes have been investigated using conductivity-temperature-depth (CTD) observations from 2000–2003 and a 5-month mooring deployment through the spring and summer of 2002. Modeling of shelf-fjord dynamics was performed with the Bergen Ocean Model. Observations show a rapid and overwhelming intrusion of Atlantic Water across the shelf and into the fjord during midsummer giving rise to intense seasonality. Pockets of Atlantic Water, from the West Spitsbergen Current, form through barotropic instabilities at the shelf front. These leak onto the shelf and propagate as topographically steered features toward the fjord. Model results indicate that such cross-front exchange is enhanced by north winds. Normally, Atlantic Water penetration into the fjord is inhibited by a density front at the fjord mouth. This geostrophic control mechanism is found to be more important than the hydraulic control common to many fjords. Slow modification of the fjord water during spring reduces the effectiveness of geostrophic control, and by midsummer, Atlantic Water intrudes into the fjord, switching from being Arctic dominant to Atlantic dominant. Atlantic Water continues to intrude throughout the summer and by September reaches some quasi steady state condition. The fjord adopts a ‘‘cold’’ or ‘‘warm’’ mode according to the degree of Atlantic Water occupation. Horizontal exchange across the shelf may be an important process causing seasonal variability in the northward heat transport to the Arctic.