A preliminary investigation of basin water response to climate forcing in a Scottish fjord: Evaluating the influence of the NAO

School of Geography and Geosciences, University of St. Andrews, St. Andrews KY16 9AL, UK
Continental Shelf Research (Impact Factor: 1.89). 01/2013; 25:571-587. DOI: 10.1016/j.csr.2004.10.011


The sea lochs (fjords) of NW Scotland bridge the land–ocean interface in a region of Europe which is particularly well situated to monitor changes in westerly air streams. Inter-annual atmospheric circulation changes at this latitude are largely governed by the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO). Comparing two recent extreme NAO years, a two-dimensional model of Loch Sunart, NW Scotland, is used to examine the potential effects of climate oscillations on the magnitude and frequency of deep-water renewal events and the resulting water properties in the fjord basins. In the upper basin of the fjord, meteorological forcing during the high NAO index year (1988–89) resulted in less-frequent deep-water renewal, greater variability in basin salinity and a lower annual-mean salinity (by 0.52) than that predicted for the low NAO index year (1995–96). In the main basin, variations in meteorological forcing had much less effect on basin water properties. In both basins, predicted deep water inflow was significantly greater during the negative phase NAO, with annual inflow to the upper and main basins being respectively 50% and 300% greater during 1995–96 relative to 1988–99. Through a sensitivity analysis, the NAO is shown to affect upper basin water properties through the influence of low-frequency anomalies in the meteorological forcing, particularly the enhanced westerly wind stress associated with positive phases, which inhibits deep water renewal over the winter months. The salinity of the main and upper basins respond differently to the boundary forcing due to differential tidal mixing above the respectively sub- and super-critical entrance sills. Predictions of basin water isotope ratios are made by applying the salinity:δ18Owater mixing line for the region to the salinity results; the combination of the weak dependence of δ18Owater on salinity and the stable salinity predicted for the main basin suggests that some fjord basins may provide ideal sites for palaeotemperature studies.

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Available from: Philip A. Gillibrand
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    • "A 270 % net increase in precipitation-derived freshwater input into the North Atlantic was observed during the 1960–1990s (Josey and Marsh 2005; Bindoff et al. 2007), stimulating a debate into the future evolution of marine salinity given atmospheric CO 2 projections. By the year 2100, atmospheric temperature is projected to rise by up to 6 °C (IPCC 2013), increasing the 'moisture-holding capacity' of the atmosphere (Trenberth et al. 2007), and thus the potential for precipitation events, enhancing freshwater run-off into the coastal zone (Gillibrand et al. 2005), particularly in the mid/high latitudes (IPCC 2013). A rise in atmospheric temperatures may also lead to more pronounced seasonal ice melt (Hanna et al. 2008); run-off from the Greenland Ice Sheet into the Kangerlussaq drainage basin has increased by 113 km 3 over the last 50 years (Hanna et al. 2008). "
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