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Strong Downslope Wind Events in Ammassalik, Southeast Greenland

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  • 1 Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, Massachusetts
  • | 2 University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  • | 3 Los Alamos National Laboratory, Los Alamos, New Mexico, and Centro de Estudios Científicios, Validiva, Chile
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Abstract

Ammassalik in southeast Greenland is known for strong wind events that can reach hurricane intensity and cause severe destruction in the local town. Yet, these winds and their impact on the nearby fjord and shelf region have not been studied in detail.

Here, data from two meteorological stations and the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts Interim Re-Analysis (ERA-Interim) are used to identify and characterize these strong downslope wind events, which are especially pronounced at a major east Greenland fjord, Sermilik Fjord, within Ammassalik. Their local and regional characteristics, their dynamics and their impacts on the regional sea ice cover, and air–sea fluxes are described. Based on a composite of the events it is concluded that wind events last for approximately a day, and seven to eight events occur each winter. Downslope wind events are associated with a deep synoptic-scale cyclone between Iceland and Greenland. During the events, cold dry air is advected down the ice sheet. The downslope flow is accelerated by gravitational acceleration, flow convergence inside the Ammassalik valley, and near the coast by an additional thermal and synoptic-scale pressure gradient acceleration. Wind events are associated with a large buoyancy loss over the Irminger Sea, and it is estimated that they drive one-fifth of the net wintertime loss. Also, the extreme winds drive sea ice out of the fjord and away from the shelf.

Corresponding author address: M. Oltmanns, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, 266 Woods Hole Road, Woods Hole, MA 02543. E-mail: marilena@mit.edu

Abstract

Ammassalik in southeast Greenland is known for strong wind events that can reach hurricane intensity and cause severe destruction in the local town. Yet, these winds and their impact on the nearby fjord and shelf region have not been studied in detail.

Here, data from two meteorological stations and the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts Interim Re-Analysis (ERA-Interim) are used to identify and characterize these strong downslope wind events, which are especially pronounced at a major east Greenland fjord, Sermilik Fjord, within Ammassalik. Their local and regional characteristics, their dynamics and their impacts on the regional sea ice cover, and air–sea fluxes are described. Based on a composite of the events it is concluded that wind events last for approximately a day, and seven to eight events occur each winter. Downslope wind events are associated with a deep synoptic-scale cyclone between Iceland and Greenland. During the events, cold dry air is advected down the ice sheet. The downslope flow is accelerated by gravitational acceleration, flow convergence inside the Ammassalik valley, and near the coast by an additional thermal and synoptic-scale pressure gradient acceleration. Wind events are associated with a large buoyancy loss over the Irminger Sea, and it is estimated that they drive one-fifth of the net wintertime loss. Also, the extreme winds drive sea ice out of the fjord and away from the shelf.

Corresponding author address: M. Oltmanns, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, 266 Woods Hole Road, Woods Hole, MA 02543. E-mail: marilena@mit.edu
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