Long-term trends of temperature, salinity, density, and transient tracers in the central Greenland Sea

Gerhard Bönisch, Johan Blindheim, John L. Bullister, Peter Schlosser, Douglas W.R. Wallace

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69 Scopus citations


We present long-term observations of temperature, salinity, tritium/3He, chlorofluorocarbon-11 (CFC 11), and chlorofluorocarbon-12 (CFC 12) for the central Greenland Gyre. The time series span the periods between 1952 and 1994 (temperature), 1981 and 1994 (salinity), 1972 and 1994 (tritium/3He), and 1982 and 1994 (CFCs). The correlation between hydrographic and transient tracer data indicates that low temperatures in the deep water in the early 1950s and between 1960 and 1980 reflect periods of higher deep water formation rates whereas periods of increasing temperatures in the late 1950s and between 1980 and 1994 are related to low deep water formation rates. However, the transient tracer observations obtained in the 1980s and early 1990s indicate that even during periods of low deep water formation, some water from the upper water column contributed to deep water formation between 1980 and 1994. In 1994, the deep water reached temperatures and salinities of -1.149 °C and 34.899, respectively, and no longer fits most of the classical definitions of Greenland Sea Deep Water (-1.29°C< Θ < -1.0°C, 34.88<S<34.90). The temperature increase in the water column between 200 and 2000 m depth between 1980 and 1994 corresponds to an average heating rate of about 5 Wm-2 over this period, resulting in a decrease in density. The 13-year warming could be balanced by intensive cooling in two winters. The surface salinity steadily increased from 34.50 in 1991 to 34.85 in 1994.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)18553-18571
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Oceans
Issue numberC8
StatePublished - Aug 15 1997
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Geophysics
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Oceanography
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)
  • Environmental Science(all)


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