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Edward Hanna, Trausti Jónsson, Jon Ólafsson, and Hedinn Valdimarsson

Abstract

A new comprehensive record of long-term Icelandic sea surface temperature measurements, which have been updated and filled in with reference to air temperature records, is presented. The new SST series reveal important features of the variability of climate in Iceland and the northern North Atlantic. This study documents site histories and possible resulting inconsistencies and biases, for example, changes in observing sites and instruments.

A new 119-yr continuous time series for north Iceland SST is presented, which should prove particularly useful for investigating air–sea ice interactions around northern Iceland. As this is the only part of the country to be regularly engulfed by winter and/or spring sea ice, it is therefore highly sensitive to climatic change. The coastal series correlate well overall with independent Hadley Centre Sea Ice and SST dataset version 1 (HadISST1) series from the adjacent open ocean (mean r = 0.59), although correlations are generally higher in summer than winter and for south and east Iceland compared with the west and north. The seasonal temperature range is generally twice as large at the coastal sites because of differential effects of radiation, melting, mixing, and advection of warmer or colder air or water masses, as well as spatial resolution differences and smoothing in HadISST1.

The long-term climatological averages and graphs for the 10 SST stations and/or their composites reveal decadal variations and trends that are generally similar to Icelandic air temperature records: a cold late-nineteenth-century, rapid warming around the 1920s, an overall warm peak circa 1940, cooling until an “icy” period circa 1970, followed by warming. Regional differences between sites include relatively greater (lesser) long-term variations for the eastern and southern (western and northern) Icelandic coasts, suggesting greater variability and influence of ocean current advection in the southeast. Moreover, Vestmannaeyjar SST data reveal that the late-nineteenth-century cold period in the ocean was not confined to the cold currents off north and east Iceland but also affected the south coast markedly. The Stykkishólmur, Iceland, SST record is relatively noisy and shows very little decadal variation, which may largely be due to fjord ice in cold winters suppressing low temperatures. It is anticipated that researchers may find these Icelandic SST series of practical use as a historic measure of air–sea–climate interactions around Iceland.

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Wilken-Jon von Appen, Dana Mastropole, Robert S. Pickart, HéÐinn Valdimarsson, Steingrímur Jónsson, and James B. Girton

Abstract

Time series data from a mooring in the center of Denmark Strait and a collection of shipboard hydrographic sections occupied across the sill are used to elucidate the mesoscale variability of the dense overflow water in the strait. Two dominant, reoccurring features are identified that are referred to as a bolus and a pulse. A bolus is a large, weakly stratified lens of overflow water associated with cyclonic rotation and a modest increase in along-stream speed of 0.1 m s−1. When a bolus passes through the strait the interface height of the overflow layer increases by 60 m, and the bottom temperature decreases by 0.4°C. By contrast, a pulse is characterized by anticyclonic rotation, a strong increase in along-stream speed of >0.25 m s−1, a decrease in interface height of 90 m, and no significant bottom temperature signal. It is estimated that, on average, boluses (pulses) pass through the strait every 3.4 (5.4) days with no seasonal signal to their frequency. Both features have the strongest along-stream signal in the overflow layer, while the strongest cross-stream velocities occur above the Denmark Strait overflow water (DSOW). In this sense neither feature can be characterized as a simple propagating eddy. Their dynamics appear to be similar to that ascribed to the mesoscale variability observed downstream in the deep western boundary current. Strong correlation of bottom temperatures between the mooring in Denmark Strait and a downstream array, together with a match in the frequency of occurrence of features at both locations, suggests a causal relationship between the mesoscale variability at the sill and that farther downstream.

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Stefanie Semper, Kjetil Våge, Robert S. Pickart, Héðinn Valdimarsson, Daniel J. Torres, and Steingrímur Jónsson

Abstract

The North Icelandic Jet (NIJ) is an important source of dense water to the overflow plume passing through Denmark Strait. The properties, structure, and transport of the NIJ are investigated for the first time along its entire pathway following the continental slope north of Iceland, using 13 hydrographic/velocity surveys of high spatial resolution conducted between 2004 and 2018. The comprehensive dataset reveals that the current originates northeast of Iceland and increases in volume transport by roughly 0.4 Sv (1 Sv ≡ 106 m3 s−1) per 100 km until 300 km upstream of Denmark Strait, at which point the highest transport is reached. The bulk of the NIJ transport is confined to a small area in Θ–S space centered near −0.29° ± 0.16°C in Conservative Temperature and 35.075 ± 0.006 g kg−1 in Absolute Salinity. While the hydrographic properties of this transport mode are not significantly modified along the NIJ’s pathway, the transport estimates vary considerably between and within the surveys. Neither a clear seasonal signal nor a consistent link to atmospheric forcing was found, but barotropic and/or baroclinic instability is likely active in the current. The NIJ displays a double-core structure in roughly 50% of the occupations, with the two cores centered at the 600- and 800-m isobaths, respectively. The transport of overflow water 300 km upstream of Denmark Strait exceeds 1.8 ± 0.3 Sv, which is substantially larger than estimates from a year-long mooring array and hydrographic/velocity surveys closer to the strait, where the NIJ merges with the separated East Greenland Current. This implies a more substantial contribution of the NIJ to the Denmark Strait overflow plume than previously envisaged.

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Peigen Lin, Robert S. Pickart, Kerstin Jochumsen, G. W. K. Moore, Héðinn Valdimarsson, Tim Fristedt, and Lawrence J. Pratt

Abstract

The dense outflow through Denmark Strait is the largest contributor to the lower limb of the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation, yet a description of the full velocity field across the strait remains incomplete. Here we analyze a set of 22 shipboard hydrographic–velocity sections occupied along the Látrabjarg transect at the Denmark Strait sill, obtained over the time period 1993–2018. The sections provide the first complete view of the kinematic components at the sill: the shelfbreak East Greenland Current (EGC), the combined flow of the separated EGC, and the North Icelandic Jet (NIJ), and the northward-flowing North Icelandic Irminger Current (NIIC). The total mean transport of overflow water is 3.54 ± 0.29 Sv (1 Sv ≡ 106 m3 s−1), comparable to previous estimates. The dense overflow is partitioned in terms of water mass constituents and flow components. The mean transports of the two types of overflow water—Atlantic-origin Overflow Water and Arctic-origin Overflow Water—are comparable in Denmark Strait, while the merged NIJ–separated EGC transports 55% more water than the shelfbreak EGC. A significant degree of water mass exchange takes place between the branches as they converge in Denmark Strait. There are two dominant time-varying configurations of the flow that are characterized as a cyclonic state and a noncyclonic state. These appear to be wind-driven. A potential vorticity analysis indicates that the flow through Denmark Strait is subject to symmetric instability. This occurs at the top of the overflow layer, implying that the mixing/entrainment process that modifies the overflow water begins at the sill.

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