CR 24:231-242 (2003)  -  doi:10.3354/cr024231

Sensitivity of the Baltic Sea salinity to the freshwater supply

H. E. Markus Meier1,*, Frank Kauker2

1Rossby Centre, SMHI, 60176 Norrköping, Sweden
2Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research, Bussestr. 24, 27570 Bremerhaven, Germany
1Since salinities were measured before the 1970s in a variety of units without defined conversion to psu, we leave the salinity in this study dimensionless

ABSTRACT: The sensitivity of the Baltic Sea salinity to the freshwater supply is investigated using a 3-dimensional (3D) coupled sea-ice-ocean model. Today┬╣s climate is characterized by an average salinity of about 7.4‰ and a freshwater supply, incl river runoff and net precipitation, of about 16 000 m3 s-1. As recent results of some regional climate models have suggested a significant increase in precipitation in the Baltic catchment area due to anthropogenic climate change, in this study the response of salinity in the Baltic Sea to changing freshwater inflow is investigated. Of special interest is the possibility of the Baltic Sea becoming a freshwater sea with 0‰ salinity in the future. Therefore, model simulations wit modified river runoff and precipitation for 1902-1998 were performed. The model is forced with daily sea-level observations in the Kattegat, monthly basin-wide discharge data, and reconstructed atmospheric surface data. The reconstruction utilizes a statistical model to calculate daily sea-level pressure, and monthly surface-air temperature, dew-point temperature, precipitation, and cloud-cover fields. It is assumed that the Kattegat deepwater salinity of about 33‰ will not change regardless of changed freshwater supply. In most of the experiments the final stratification is almost in a steady state after 100 yr. We found that even for a freshwater supply increased by 100% compared to 1902-1998 the Baltic Sea cannot be classified as a freshwater sea. A pronounced halocline still separates the upper and lower layers in the Baltic Proper, limiting the impact of direct wind mixing to the surface layer. A calculated phase diagram suggests that the relationship between freshwater supply and average salinity of the final steady state is non-linear. The results of the 3D model are in agreement with an analytical steady-state model assumed to work for freshwater changes smaller than 30%. The latter model was applied in scenarios for the average salinity of the Baltic Sea.

KEY WORDS: Baltic Sea · Climate · Sea-ice-ocean modeling · Freshwater supply · Major Baltic inflows · Sensitivity of salinity · Scenarios · D-change approach

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