Contrasting optical properties of surface waters across the Fram Strait and its potential biological implications

Alexey K. Pavlov, Mats A. Granskog, Colin A. Stedmon, Boris V. Ivanov, Stephen R. Hudson, Stig Falk-Petersen

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Underwater light regime is controlled by distribution and optical properties of colored dissolved organic matter (CDOM) and particulate matter. The Fram Strait is a region where two contrasting water masses are found. Polar water in the East Greenland Current (EGC) and Atlantic water in the West Spitsbergen Current (WSC) differ with regards to temperature, salinity and optical properties. We present data on absorption properties of CDOM and particles across the Fram Strait (along 79° N), comparing Polar and Atlantic surface waters in September 2009 and 2010. CDOM absorption of Polar water in the EGC was significantly higher (more than 3-fold) compared to Atlantic water in the WSC, with values of absorption coefficient, aCDOM(350), m-1 of 0.565±0.100 (in 2009) and 0.458±0.117 (in 2010), and 0.138±0.036 (in 2009) and 0.153±0.039 (in 2010), respectively. An opposite pattern was observed for particle absorption with higher absorption found in the eastern part of the Fram Strait. Average values of particle absorption (aP(440), m-1) were 0.016±0.013 (in 2009) and 0.014±0.011 (in 2010), and 0.047±0.012 (in 2009) and 0.016±0.014 (in 2010), respectively for Polar and Atlantic water. Thus absorption of light in eastern part of the Fram Strait is dominated by particles - predominantly phytoplankton, and the absorption of light in the western part of the strait is dominated by CDOM, with predominantly terrigenous origin. As a result the balance between the importance of CDOM and particulates to the total absorption budget in the upper 0-10m shifts across Fram Strait. Under water spectral irradiance profiles were generated using ECOLIGHT 5.4.1 and the results indicate that the shift in composition between dissolved and particulate material does not influence substantially the penetration of photosynthetic active radiation (PAR, 400-700nm), but does result in notable differences in ultraviolet (UV) light penetration, with higher attenuation in the EGC. Future changes in the Arctic Ocean system will likely affect EGC through diminishing sea-ice cover and potentially increasing CDOM export due to increase in river runoff into the Arctic Ocean. Role of attenuation of light by CDOM in determining underwater light regime will become more important, with a potential for future increase in marine productivity in the area of EGC due to elevated PAR and lowered UV light exposures.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Marine Systems
Pages (from-to)62-72
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • Arctic Ocean
  • Colored dissolved organic matter (CDOM)
  • Fram Strait
  • Light attenuation
  • Marine ecology
  • Optical properties
  • Biogeochemistry
  • Biological materials
  • Budget control
  • Dissolution
  • Light
  • Light absorption
  • Mooring
  • Organic compounds
  • Sea ice
  • Surface waters
  • Arctic ocean
  • Colored dissolved organic matter
  • Fram strait
  • Water absorption


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