A surface drifter experiment in the Nordic Seas (POLEWARD) (completed)

Poleward-drifter trajectories (large version)


To study the surface currents associated with the warm inflow from the North Atlantic, which constitutes the shallow branch of the thermohaline circulation. To characterize transit times for the waters to pass from the Iceland-Faroe Ridge to Svalbard, and to loss of heat to the atmosphere during this traversal.


The Norwegian Atlantic Current (NwAC) is the northern extension of the North Atlantic Current, the northern branch of the Gulf Stream. This flows northward, west of Norway, toward the Arctic. Along this path it is continually cooled by the atmosphere, gradually becoming denser. This process of densification is of central importance in the global thermohaline circulation as the waters which return to the North Atlantic from the Nordic Seas are among the densest in the world. The cooling process however is complex, involving lateral mixing by turbulent eddies and trapping in topographic basins, such as the Lofoten. With the 150 surface drifters in the POLEWARD project, we have gained an unparalleled view of the surface processes affecting the current.


  • Norwegian Research Council.

Poleward started in 2007 and ended in 2010

Published Nov. 16, 2010 2:00 PM - Last modified Mar. 11, 2011 11:55 AM