Journal cover Journal topic
Ocean Science An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
Ocean Sci., 13, 873-888, 2017
© Author(s) 2017. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
Research article
13 Nov 2017
Atlantic water flow through the Faroese Channels
Bogi Hansen1, Turið Poulsen1, Karin Margretha Húsgarð Larsen1, Hjálmar Hátún1, Svein Østerhus2, Elin Darelius3, Barbara Berx4, Detlef Quadfasel5, and Kerstin Jochumsen5 1Faroe Marine Research Institute, P.O. Box 3051, 110 Tórshavn, Faroe Islands
2Uni Research Climate and the Bjerknes Centre for Climate Research, Nygårdsgata 112, 5008 Bergen, Norway
3Geophysical Institute, University of Bergen and the Bjerknes Centre for Climate Research, Allég. 70, 5007 Bergen, Norway
4Marine Scotland Science, 375 Victoria Road, Aberdeen, AB11 9DB, UK
5Institut für Meereskunde, Universität Hamburg, Bundesstrasse 53, 20146 Hamburg, Germany
Abstract. Through the Faroese Channels – the collective name for a system of channels linking the Faroe–Shetland Channel, Wyville Thomson Basin, and Faroe Bank Channel – there is a deep flow of cold waters from Arctic regions that exit the system as overflow through the Faroe Bank Channel and across the Wyville Thomson Ridge. The upper layers, in contrast, are dominated by warm, saline water masses from the southwest, termed Atlantic water. In spite of intensive research over more than a century, there are still open questions on the passage of these waters through the system with conflicting views in recent literature. Of special note is the suggestion that there is a flow of Atlantic water from the Faroe–Shetland Channel through the Faroe Bank Channel, which circles the Faroes over the slope region in a clockwise direction. Here, we combine the observational evidence from ship-borne hydrography, moored current measurements, surface drifter tracks, and satellite altimetry to address these questions and propose a general scheme for the Atlantic water flow through this channel system. We find no evidence for a continuous flow of Atlantic water from the Faroe–Shetland Channel to the Faroe Bank Channel over the Faroese slope. Rather, the southwestward-flowing water over the Faroese slope of the Faroe–Shetland Channel is totally recirculated within the combined area of the Faroe–Shetland Channel and Wyville Thomson Basin, except possibly for a small release in the form of eddies. This does not exclude a possible westward flow over the southern tip of the Faroe Shelf, but even including that, we estimate that the average volume transport of a Circum-Faroe Current does not exceed 0.5 Sv (1 Sv  =  106 m3 s−1). Also, there seems to be a persistent flow of Atlantic water from the western part of the Faroe Bank Channel into the Faroe–Shetland Channel that joins the Slope Current over the Scottish slope. These conclusions will affect potential impacts from offshore activities in the region and they imply that recently published observational estimates of the transport of warm water towards the Arctic obtained by different methods are incompatible.

Citation: Hansen, B., Poulsen, T., Húsgarð Larsen, K. M., Hátún, H., Østerhus, S., Darelius, E., Berx, B., Quadfasel, D., and Jochumsen, K.: Atlantic water flow through the Faroese Channels, Ocean Sci., 13, 873-888,, 2017.
Publications Copernicus
Short summary
On its way towards the Arctic, an important branch of warm Atlantic water passes through the Faroese Channels, but, in spite of more than a century of investigations, the detailed flow pattern through this channel system has not been resolved. This has strong implications for estimates of oceanic heat transport towards the Arctic. Here, we combine observations from various sources, which together paint a coherent picture of the Atlantic water flow and heat transport through this channel system.
On its way towards the Arctic, an important branch of warm Atlantic water passes through the...