This article has been reviewed by the following Topic Editor: C Michael Hogan
The Arctic Mediterranean Sea is the area comprising the Greenland Sea, the Iceland Sea, the Norwegian Sea and the Arctic Ocean.
This article is written at a definitional level only. Authors wishing to expand this entry are inivited to expand the present treatment, which additions will be peer reviewed prior to publication of any expansion.
The first three are sometimes referred to as the Nordic Seas. The area has restricted ocean circulation communication with the rest of the world's seas, with the passages being:
To the Pacific Ocean via the Bering Strait;
To the North Atlantic Ocean via the Greenland–Scotland Ridge; and
Through the Canadian Arctic Archipelago and the Davis Strait west of Greenland.
Arctic Ocean Circulation. 1. Cold and relatively less salty water enters the Arctic Ocean through the narrow Bering Strait between Alaska and Siberia. 2. In winter, frigid winds from the icy Alaskan interior blast over the shallow Chukchi Sea. The cold air freezes seawater into sea ice and then pushes it out to sea, leaving new pockets of seawater available for freezing. This is “the ice factory” which manufactures ice. When seawater freezes, it releases salt into surface waters. These cold, salty waters become denser and sink, spilling over the continental shelf into the western Arctic Ocean. They create a layer known as a halocline (from the Greek words for “salt” and “slope”). Halocline waters lie atop a deeper layer of saltier, denser—and warmer—waters that flow into the Arctic from the Atlantic Ocean. 3. Once in the Arctic Ocean basin, the water is swept into a huge circular current—driven by strong winds—called the Beaufort Gyre. Mighty Siberian and Canadian rivers also drain into the circular current to create a great reservoir of relatively fresh water. 4. Periodically, the winds shift and the circular current weakens, allowing large volumes of fresh water to leak out and cross the Arctic in the Transpolar Current. 5. The water exits the Arctic Ocean via several “gateways.” It can flow through the Fram Strait, between northeast Greenland and Svalbard Island, and then branch around either side of Iceland. It can flow around the west side of Greenland through Baffin Bay and out Davis Strait. It may also flow through a maze of Canadian islands and out Hudson Strait. 6. Warmer, more salty surface waters from the Atlantic penetrate the Arctic Ocean and are cooled as they move through the Greenland Sea and the Norwegian Sea. As they get colder, they sink beneath the cold, less salty waters to depths reaching several hundred meters. Eventually, they exit through the Fram Strait, the only “gateway” that allows deeper water to flow through. Source: Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
Physical Oceanography Index
The thermohaline circulation is sumarized in K. Aagaard and E. C. Carmack. Thermohaline circulation in the Arctic Mediterranean Sea. JGR, 90:4833–4846, 1985.
Steve Baum (Lead Author);C Michael Hogan (Topic Editor) "Arctic Mediterranean Sea". In: Encyclopedia of Earth. Eds. Cutler J. Cleveland (Washington, D.C.: Environmental Information Coalition, National Council for Science and the Environment). [First published in the Encyclopedia of Earth March 29, 2010; Last revised Date November 9, 2011; Retrieved June 19, 2013 <http://www.eoearth.org/article/Arctic_Mediterranean_Sea?topic=49523>