Reduced efficiency of the Barents Sea cooling machine

Skagseth, Ø., Eldevik, T., Årthun, M., Asbjørnsen, H., Lien, VS., Smedsrud, LH. 2020: Decreasing efficiency of the Barents Sea cooling machine. Nature Climate Change. .

Summary: Dense water masses from the Barents Sea are an important part of the Arctic thermohaline system. Here, using hydrographic observations from 1971 to 2018, we show that the Barents Sea climate system has reached a point where ‘the Barents Sea cooling machine’—warmer Atlantic inflow, less sea ice, more regional ocean heat loss—has changed towards less-efficient cooling. Present change is dominated by reduced ocean heat loss over the southern Barents Sea as a result of anomalous southerly winds. The outflows have accordingly become warmer. Outflow densities have nevertheless remained relatively unperturbed as increasing salinity appears to have compensated the warming inflow. However, as the upstream Atlantic Water is now observed to freshen while still relatively warm, we speculate that the Barents Sea within a few years may export water masses of record-low density to the adjacent basins and deep ocean circulation.

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