The Storfjorden polynya: ERS-2 SAR observations and overview

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Haarpaintner, Jörg (1999)

Persistent polynyas have been observed over several winters in Storfjorden, situated between Spitsbergen and Barentsøya/Edgeøya in the south of the Svalbard archipelago. Polynyas are in general active regions with respect to ocean-atmosphere heat exchange, presenting strong convection phenomena and as such being involved in important water mass formation and having an impact on the marine ecosystem. Hydrographic observations have revealed very dense (cold and saline) brine-enriched bottom waters leaving the continental shelf as gravity driven plumes into the deep sea west of Spitsbergen. Satellite observations, using ERS-2 SAR imagery, reveal the evolution of the Storfjorden polynya during winter 1997/98. After forming a complete ice cover until mid-January, Storfjorden responds dynamically to northerly winds by opening a large latent heat polynya. It occupies at its largest extent a region of up to 6000 km2 of open water, thin ice and brash ice. Comparable in size to other large Arctic polynyas, the Storfjorden polynya might have the same or even greater importance in the thermohaline circulation and bottom water mass formation. Ice production is estimated at 30 km3 in Storfjorden, rejecting around 700 Mt (Megatons) of salt that can raise the salinity in Storfjorden by 0.9-1.0 PSU. First studies and the winter 1997/98 evolution of this polynya are presented in this paper.
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