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The Arctic Mediterranean sits on the “top of the world” and connects the Atlantic and Pacific climate realms via the cold Arctic. It is the combined basin of the Nordic Seas (the Norwegian, Iceland, and Greenland seas) and the Arctic Ocean confined by the Arctic land masses – thus making it a Mediterranean ocean (Figure 6.1; e.g., Aagaard et al., 1985). The Arctic Mediterranean is small for a World Ocean but its heat loss and freshwater uptake is disproportionally large (e.g., Ganachaud and Wunsch, 2000; Eldevik and Nilsen, 2013; Haine et al., 2015). With the combined presence of the Gulf Stream’s northern limb, regional freshwater stratification, and a retreating sea-ice cover, it is likely where water mass contrasts, shifting air-ocean-ice interaction, and climate change are most pronounced in the present world oceans (Stocker et al., 2013; Vihma, 2014).
The oceans have a huge capability to store, release, and transport heat, water, and various chemical species on timescales from seasons to centuries. Their transports affect global energy, water, and biogeochemical cycles and are crucial elements of Earth’s climate system. Ocean variability, as represented, for example, by sea surface temperature (SST) variations, can result in anomalous diabatic heating or cooling of the overlying atmosphere, which can in turn alter atmospheric circulation in such a way as to feedback on ocean thermal and current structures to modify the original SST variations. Ocean–atmosphere interactions in one ocean basin can also influence remote regions via interbasin teleconnections that can trigger responses having both local and far-field impacts. This chapter highlights the defining aspects of the climate in individual ocean basins, including mean states, seasonal cycles, interannual-to-interdecadal variability, and interactions with other basins. Key components of the global and tropical ocean observing system are also described.
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