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Oceanography: Arctic freshening

Nature volume 459, page 487 (28 May 2009) | Download Citation


An inventory carried out during the International Polar Year 2007–2008 reveals substantial increases in fresh water in parts of the Arctic Ocean.

Matthew Alkire of Oregon State University in Corvallis and his colleagues found that in March and April 2008 the freshwater content in the Canada and Makarov basins had increased by around 8,500 cubic kilometres, or 26%, compared with average freshwater content in winters past. Other areas saw small decreases.

Chemical analysis suggests that precipitation and increased river runoff, as well as Pacific water, are dominant freshwater sources; accelerated sea-ice melting also has a role. Prevailing anti-cyclonic wind patterns seem to have favoured freshwater redistribution towards the western Arctic basin.

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