The Northeast Water Polynya, Greenland: Climatology, atmospheric forcing and ocean response

Bennett, Miriam G., Renfrew, Ian A. ORCID:, Stevens, David P. ORCID: and Moore, G. W. K. (2024) The Northeast Water Polynya, Greenland: Climatology, atmospheric forcing and ocean response. JGR Oceans, 129 (5). ISSN 2169-9275

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The Northeast Water Polynya is a significant annually recurring summertime Arctic polynya, located off the coast of Northeast Greenland. It is important for marine wildlife and affects local atmospheric and oceanic processes. In this study, over 40 years of observational and reanalysis products (ERA5 and ORAS5) are analyzed to characterize the polynya's climatology and ascertain forcing mechanisms. The Northeast Water Polynya has high spatiotemporal variability; its location, size and structure vary interannually, and the period for which it is open is changing. We show this variability is largely driven by atmospheric forcing. The polynya extent is determined by the direction of the near-surface flow regime, and the relative locations of high and low sea-level pressure centers over the region. The surface conditions also impact the oceanic water column, which has a strong seasonal cycle in potential temperature and salinity, the amplitude of which decreases with depth. The ocean reanalyses also show a significant warming trend at all depths and a freshening near the surface consistent with greater ice melt, but salinification at lower depths (∼200 m). As the Arctic region changes due to anthropogenic forcing, the sea-ice edge is migrating northwards and the Northeast Water Polynya is generally opening earlier and closing later in the year. This could have significant implications for both the atmosphere and ocean in this complex and rapidly changing environment.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: Data Availability Statement: All ERA5 and ORAS5 data are available from the Copernicus Climate Data Store ( AMSR-E and AMSR2 sea-ice data are available from the University of Bremen Remote Sensing webpage ( and the NOAA/NSIDC CDR of Passive Microwave Sea Ice Concentration (Version 4) is available online from NSIDC ( The observational ocean casts can be found on the World Ocean Database ( The bathymetry and topographic elevation data are available from GEBCO ( and USGS ( respectively. We used the GEBCO_2023 GRID (sub-ice topo/bathy) netCDF data set. MODIS satellite images can be found on the NASA Worldview webpage ( Research Funding: Natural Environment Research Council. Grant Numbers: NE/S007334/1, NE/N009754/1, NE/T00682X/1; Research and Specialist Computing Support Service at the University of East Anglia
Uncontrolled Keywords: geochemistry and petrology,geophysics,oceanography,space and planetary science,earth and planetary sciences (miscellaneous),sdg 14 - life below water,sdg 13 - climate action ,/dk/atira/pure/subjectarea/asjc/1900/1906
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Science
Faculty of Science > School of Environmental Sciences
University of East Anglia Research Groups/Centres > Theme - ClimateUEA
Faculty of Science > School of Mathematics
UEA Research Groups: Faculty of Science > Research Groups > Centre for Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences
Faculty of Science > Research Groups > Fluid and Solid Mechanics
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Depositing User: LivePure Connector
Date Deposited: 14 May 2024 15:31
Last Modified: 21 May 2024 08:30
DOI: 10.1029/2023JC020513


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