The Northeast Water Polynya, Greenland: Climatology, atmospheric forcing and ocean response

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The Northeast Water Polynya is a significant annually recurring summertime Arctic polynya, located off the coast of Northeast Greenland. It is important for marine wildlife and affects local atmospheric and oceanic processes. In this study, over 40 years of observational and reanalysis products (ERA5 and ORAS5) are analyzed to characterize the polynya's climatology and ascertain forcing mechanisms. The Northeast Water Polynya has high spatiotemporal variability; its location, size and structure vary interannually, and the period for which it is open is changing. We show this variability is largely driven by atmospheric forcing. The polynya extent is determined by the direction of the near-surface flow regime, and the relative locations of high and low sea-level pressure centers over the region. The surface conditions also impact the oceanic water column, which has a strong seasonal cycle in potential temperature and salinity, the amplitude of which decreases with depth. The ocean reanalyses also show a significant warming trend at all depths and a freshening near the surface consistent with greater ice melt, but salinification at lower depths (∼200 m). As the Arctic region changes due to anthropogenic forcing, the sea-ice edge is migrating northwards and the Northeast Water Polynya is generally opening earlier and closing later in the year. This could have significant implications for both the atmosphere and ocean in this complex and rapidly changing environment.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2023JC020513
JournalJGR Oceans
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2 May 2024

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