Mechanisms Underlying Recent Arctic Atlantification

Recent “Atlantification” of the Arctic is characterized by warmer ocean temperatures and a reduced sea ice cover. The Barents Sea is a “hot spot” for these changes, something which has broad socioeconomic and environmental impacts in the region. However, there is, at present, no complete understanding of what is causing the ocean warming.

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Warm Atlantic Water Explains Observed Sea Ice Melt Rates North of Svalbard

Warm Atlantic water (AW) that flows northward along the Svalbard west coast is thought to
transport enough heat to melt regional Arctic sea ice effectively. Despite this common assumption, quantitative requirements necessary for AW to directly melt sea ice fast enough under realistic winter conditions are still poorly constrained.

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Polar cod have become larger in the Barents Sea over the last 30 years

Polar cod is a key fish species, transferring energy from zooplankton to larger animals. Polar cod depend on sea ice for spawning and during the early parts of its life. Reduced ice cover may therefore influence the survival and growth of young polar cod directly through e.g. loss of predation refuge, and indirectly by e.g. affecting the abundance and availability of prey.

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