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Fjordic Freshwater Fluxes: Impacts on circulation and marine ecosystems

Awarded: NOK 0.48 mill.

Two major climatic changes are occurring in Svalbard: the increasing Atlantification (Polyakov et al 2017) of the coasts, and the retreat of its glaciers (Luckman et al 2015). The contact zone between these climatically sensitive domains (glaciers and oceans) presents a uniquely challenging environment to observe and model. There are few oceanic ‘regimes’ not yet sampled by direct observation; indeed, arguably, there is just this one: the vertical boundary zone, just ~10s m wide, where glaciers meet seawater. We will focus on integrating the new observations of freshwater plumes in this thin boundary zone into a high-resolution numerical model. The precise nature of submarine melting, submarine discharge and surface runoff are known to have feedbacks on the circulatory mechanisms which draw warm oceanic waters in fjords (Cowton et al 2015). In Polar Regions the combination of coastal geometry and high latitude predicate intensification of the circulation at the boundaries due to Earth rotation. Unravelling the hypothesized (Carroll et al 2017) feedback mechanism between discharge and circulation presents a double challenge to observation. The primary objective is to undertake field trials of new autonomous platforms to provide empirical data from a habitat that is out of reach for traditional sampling methods. A secondary objective, supported by a Fram Centre funded project, is to then fully assimilate field observations into numerical model capable of representing plume discharges. These are important technical observational and modelling challenges of great importance for future fjordic programs. This application will provide field support to allow use of new Autonomous Underwater and Surface Vehicles (AUVs and ASVs) requiring extensive use of FF Teisten and accommodation for six personnel for ten days in Ny Alesund, and some use of infrastructure to deploy and recover the ASV from the dock.

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