FreshArc - Arctic freshwater export through Fram Strait in an era of Arctic Ocean freshening and sea ice thinning

One of the key questions within present-day climate research is: has Arctic Ocean freshwater export to the North Atlantic increased? Knowledge of the Arctic freshwater export and its drivers is essential since anomalies in freshwater have the capacity to modify the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation strength and therewith our present-day mild climate in western Europe. The proposed research will investigate modern variability and trends in the freshwater export from the Arctic through Fram Strait. A unique and fundamentally improved observationally-based baseline of total freshwater export including both oceanic freshwater and sea ice will be developed. This project will investigate the response of the Arctic Ocean freshwater export to the fast changes in the Arctic Ocean, sea ice and atmospheric circulation that have occurred in the last two decades. An integral approach is taken by combining high-resolution in-situ oceanographic and sea ice measurements, remote sensing products, atmospheric reanalysis, and output from a coupled sea ice-ocean model. New, high-quality data collected by innovative instrumentation installed on the moorings in this project will improve the earlier freshwater estimates and reduce errors significantly. The results of this research will deliver important new insights of the implications of Arctic climate change for the mid latitudes.

FreshArc is funded by the Norwegian Research Council and  led by the Norwegian Polar Institute (NPI)

Project participants are Laura de Steur (NPI, lead), Gunnar Spreen (University of Bremen), Michael Karcher (OASys),
Svein Østerhus (UniResearch), Paul A. Dodd (NPI), and Sebastian Gerland (NPI)

The project will test the followig scientific hypotheses:

  • H1: The liquid freshwater transport from the Arctic Ocean has increased since the late 2000s.
  • H2: The export of sea ice volume from the Arctic Ocean has reduced since the late 2000s.
  • H3: The short-term variability in FWT associated with regional atmospheric forcing is presently
    larger than in the 1990s.
  • H4: The total Fram Strait freshwater export from the Arctic has reached a new state since the late
    2000s due to an Arctic-wide change in circulation