Norwegian Sea's ups and downs
20 November 2012
An anticlockwise rotation of sea-surface height patterns has been observed near Norway's west coast. Archived data from radar altimeters on the ERS-1, ERS-2 and Envisat satellites show the wave-like motion around the centre of the Lofoten Basin.
The Lofoten Basin is a topographic depression about 3500 m deep in the Norwegian Sea and plays an important role in sustaining global ocean circulation. It is a transit area for the warm and saline Atlantic Water on its way to the Arctic Ocean. Here, the inflowing Atlantic Water loses its heat to the atmosphere and mixes with surrounding water. This causes the water to become dense and sink, forming 'deep water' in adjacent regions - another important step in ocean circulation.
Using satellite data, scientists have observed topographic waves in the Lofoten Basin that are largely responsible for the amplification of sea-surface height variability in the area. The waves are approximately 10 cm high and propagate in an anticlockwise direction.
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