Gradually decaying Arctic sea ice changes the boundary conditions at the surface, separating ocean and atmosphere. In recent years, substantial reductions in sea ice during winter have been observed in the Atlantic sector of the Arctic Ocean, which forms the gateway for warm water inflow from the midlatitudes. In this study, we used routine output from the Mercator Ocean global operational system (MOGOS) to assess the efficiency of winter thermohaline convection transporting heat from deep layers to the ocean surface along the Atlantic origin water (AW) pathway, between Svalbard and Franz Joseph Land in the Nansen Basin. Positive temperature extremes in the AW layer in midwinter promote favorable prerequisite conditions for deep‐reaching thermohaline convection, with explicit signs captured by the MOGOS. Balance equations with several assumptions for the compact region around the position (81.30°N, 31°E) of the long‐term (2004–2010) mooring demonstrated that winter heat loss at the ocean surface is mainly compensated by convective heat flux from the AW layer. Heat and salt fluxes, associated with horizontal advection, are compatible with convective fluxes, while contribution of ice formation/melt is substantially smaller. Conclusion about the dominant role of vertical convection in shaping thermohaline structure and reducing sea ice in winter is supported by correlation analysis of the MOGOS output and mooring‐based measurements. Unfavorable background conditions (thick and consolidated sea ice in combination with specific directions of ice drift) may significantly alter convection development, as demonstrated for two sequential years with substantially different external forcing.
EPIC Alfred Wegener Institut