The Greenland ice sheet has undergone accelerating mass losses during recent decades. Freshwater runoff from ice melt can influence fjord circulation and dynamics and the delivery of bioavailable micronutrients to the ocean. It can also have climate implications, because stratification in the adjacent Labrador Sea may influence deep convection and the strength of the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation. Yet, the fate of the meltwater in the ocean remains unclear. Here, we use a high-resolution ocean model to show that only 1-15% of the surface meltwater runoff originating from southwest Greenland is transported westwards. In contrast, up to 50-60% of the meltwater runoff originating from southeast Greenland is transported westwards into the northern Labrador Sea, leading to significant salinity and stratification anomalies far from the coast. Doubling meltwater runoff, as predicted in future climate scenarios, results in a more-than-double increase in anomalies offshore that persists further into the winter. Interannual variability in offshore export of meltwater is tightly related to variability in wind forcing. The new insight that meltwaters originating from the west and east coasts have different fates indicates that future changes in mass loss rates and surface runoff will probably impact the ocean differently, depending on their Greenland origins.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)