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Freshwater inputs:

  rivers 45 cm/yr (averaged over the Arctic Ocean)
relatively fresh ocean water from the North Pacific Ocean via Bering Strait 27 cm/yr
precipitation less evaporation 13 cm/yr

Freshwater outputs:

  Liquid ocean water flowing south to the North Atlantic Ocean via:
the Canadian Arctic Archipelago 18 cm/yr
Fram Strait 12 cm/yr
Sea ice flowing south to the North Atlantic Ocean via:
the Canadian Arctic Archipelago ?? cm/yr
Fram Strait 40 cm/yr


#’s are loosely from work by Aagaard, Steele, and co-authors, and unfortunately have significant uncertainties (thus the NSF initiative that funds this project!).


The Arctic Ocean is a very fresh ocean. This is because most of the Russian rivers drain to the north; also, there are large riverine inputs from North America and there are relatively fresh ocean waters that flow northward through Bering Strait from the North Pacific Ocean. These waters are entrained into the 3 main circulation features of the Arctic Ocean: (1) The clockwise-flowing Beaufort Gyre, (2) the Transpolar Drift Stream, and (3) the eastward-flowing boundary current. Eventually, this freshwater (both liquid ocean water and its solid sea ice component) finds its way south into the North Atlantic Ocean via the complex passageways of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago and also through Fram Strait northeast of Greenland.

Polar Science Center
Applied Physics Laboratory
1013 NE 40th Street
Seattle, WA 98105

University of Washington

This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 0230427.
Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the
National Science Foundation.

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