Distinct Ocean Responses to Greenland's Liquid Runoff and Iceberg Melt
Marson, Juliana M.
Gillard, Laura C.
Myers, Paul G.
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While Greenland discharge has been increasing in the last decades, its impact on the Meridional Overturning Circulation (MOC) is not clearly established. Because of that, the accuracy of this discharge representation in ocean models has not been a priority in large-scale circulation studies. Many models prescribe Greenland discharge solely as liquid runoff from the coast—even though around half of this mass loss is attributed to solid discharge. In this study, we use sensitivity experiments carried out with the Nucleus for European Modeling of the Ocean general circulation model to show the most relevant impacts that different Greenland solid discharge parameterizations (transforming it to liquid runoff or explicitly representing it through an iceberg model) have on the western subpolar Atlantic. We find that icebergs act as freshwater reservoirs that affect how much, when, and where freshwater is delivered to the ocean. They carry large amounts of freshwater away from boundary currents, releasing it in the interior of the subpolar gyre. Moreover, the amount and variability of freshwater delivered to the ocean depend not only on the characteristics of Greenland discharge itself but also on the environmental conditions icebergs are subjected to. We also find a large difference in subsurface temperatures in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence, which suggests that different Greenland discharge parameterizations might have far reaching implications beyond the MOC. Although differences in ocean fields between the simulations are usually small and within their interannual variability, they might be relevant as Greenland calving rates increase with global warming.