Oceanic boundary conditions for Jakobshavn Glacier. Part II: Provenance and sources of variability of disko bay and Ilulissat Icefjord waters, 1990-2011

Carl V. Gladish, David M. Holland, Craig M. Lee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Jakobshavn Glacier, west Greenland, has responded to temperature changes in Ilulissat Icefjord, into which it terminates. Basin waters in this fjord exchange with neighboring Disko Bay waters of a particular density at least once per year. This study determined the provenance of this isopycnic layer for 1990-2011 using hydrographic data from Cape Farewell to Baffin Bay. The warm Atlantic-origin core of the West Greenland Current never filled deep Disko Bay or entered the fjord basin because of bathymetric impediments on the west Greenland shelf. Instead, equal parts of Atlantic water and less-saline polar water filled the fjord basin and bathed Jakobshavn Glacier. The polar water fraction was often traceable to the East/West Greenland Current but sometimes to the colder Baffin Current. The huge annual temperature cycle on West Greenland Current isopycnals did not propagate into deep Disko Bay or the fjord basin because isopycnals over the west Greenland shelf were depressed during the warm autumn/winter phase of the cycle. Ilulissat Icefjord basin waters were anomalously cool in summer 2010. This was not because of the record low NAO index winter of 2009/10 or atmospheric anomalies over Baffin Bay but, possibly, because of high freshwater flux through the Canadian Arctic and a weak West Greenland Current in early 2010. Together, this caused cold Baffin Current water to flood the west Greenland shelf. Subpolar gyre warming associated with the NAO anomaly in winter 2009/10 was more likely responsible for the record warm Disko Bay and Ilulissat Icefjord basin waters of 2011/12.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)33-63
Number of pages31
JournalJournal of Physical Oceanography
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2015



  • Arctic
  • Atm/Ocean Structure/Phenomena
  • Atmosphere-ocean interaction
  • Boundary currents
  • Circulation/Dynamics
  • Continental shelf/slope
  • Geographic location/entity
  • Glaciers
  • Interannual variability
  • Variability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oceanography

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