Borealization of the Arctic Ocean in Response to Anomalous Advection From Sub-Arctic Seas
Journal article, 2020

An important yet still not well documented aspect of recent changes in the Arctic Ocean is associated with the advection of anomalous sub-Arctic Atlantic- and Pacific-origin waters and biota into the polar basins, a process which we refer to as borealization. Using a 37-year archive of observations (1981-2017) we demonstrate dramatically contrasting regional responses to atlantification (that part of borealization related to progression of anomalies from the Atlantic sector of sub-Arctic seas into the Arctic Ocean) and pacification (the counterpart of atlantification associated with influx of anomalous Pacific waters). Particularly, we show strong salinification of the upper Eurasian Basin since 2000, with attendant reductions in stratification, and potentially altered nutrient fluxes and primary production. These changes are closely related to upstream conditions. In contrast, pacification is strongly manifested in the Amerasian Basin by the anomalous influx of Pacific waters, creating conditions favorable for increased heat and freshwater content in the Beaufort Gyre halocline and expansion of Pacific species into the Arctic interior. Here, changes in the upper (overlying) layers are driven by local Arctic atmospheric processes resulting in stronger wind/ice/ocean coupling, increased convergence within the Beaufort Gyre, a thickening of the fresh surface layer, and a deepening of the nutricline and deep chlorophyll maximum. Thus, a divergent (Eurasian Basin) gyre responds altogether differently than does a convergent (Amerasian Basin) gyre to climate forcing. Available geochemical data indicate a general decrease in nutrient concentrations Arctic-wide, except in the northern portions of the Makarov and Amundsen Basins and northern Chukchi Sea and Canada Basin. Thus, changes in the circulation pathways of specific water masses, as well as the utilization of nutrients in upstream regions, may control the availability of nutrients in the Arctic Ocean. Model-based evaluation of the trajectory of the Arctic climate system into the future suggests that Arctic borealization will continue under scenarios of global warming. Results from this synthesis further our understanding of the Arctic Ocean's complex and sometimes non-intuitive Arctic response to climate forcing by identifying new feedbacks in the atmosphere-ice-ocean system in which borealization plays a key role.

multidisciplinary changes

climate change

Arctic ocean

atlantification and pacification

future projections



Finnish Meteorological Institute (FMI)

University of Alaska Fairbanks

Matthew B. Alkire

University of Washington

Bodil A. Bluhm

University of Tromsø – The Arctic University of Norway

Kristina A. Brown

Fisheries and Oceans Canada

Eddy C. Carmack

Fisheries and Oceans Canada

Melissa Chierici

Norwegian Institute of Marine Research

Seth L. Danielson

University of Alaska Fairbanks

Ingrid Ellingsen


Elizaveta A. Ershova

University of Tromsø – The Arctic University of Norway

Russian Academy of Sciences

Katarina Gårdfeldt

Chalmers, Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, Energy and Material

Randi B. Ingvaldsen

Norwegian Institute of Marine Research

University of Tromsø – The Arctic University of Norway


University of Alaska Fairbanks

Dag Slagstad


Paul Wassmann

University of Tromsø – The Arctic University of Norway

Frontiers in Marine Science

2296-7745 (eISSN)

Vol. 7 491

Subject Categories

Meteorology and Atmospheric Sciences

Oceanography, Hydrology, Water Resources

Climate Research



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