The East Greenland Coastal Current: Structure, variability, and forcing Academic Article uri icon


  • The subtidal circulation of the southeast Greenland shelf is described using a set of high-resolution hydrographic and velocity transects occupied in summer 2004. The main feature is the East Greenland Coastal Current (EGCC), a low-salinity, high-velocity jet with a wedge-shaped hydrographic structure characteristic of other surface buoyancydriven currents. The EGCC was observed along the entire Greenland shelf south of Denmark Strait, while the transect north of the strait showed only a weak shelf flow. This observation, in conjunction with water mass considerations and other supporting evidence, suggests that the EGCC is an inner branch of the East Greenland Current (EGC) that forms south of Denmark Strait. It is argued that bathymetric steering is the most likely reason why the EGC apparently bifurcates at this location. Repeat sections occupied at Cape Farewell between 1997 and 2004 show that the alongshelf wind stress can have a strong influence on the structure and strength of the EGCC and EGC on timescales of 2-3 days. Accounting for the wind-induced effects, the volume transport of the combined EGCC/EGC system is roughly constant (~2 Sv) over the study domain, from 68°N to Cape Farewell near 60°N. The corresponding freshwater transport increases by roughly 60% over this distance (59 to 96 mSv, referenced to a salinity of 34.8). This trend is consistent with a simple freshwater budget of the EGCC/EGC system that accounts for meltwater runoff, melting sea-ice and icebergs, and net precipitation minus evaporation.

publication date

  • July 2008