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West Greenland Current

Some ocean currents are warm and other ocean currents are cold, but a few are actually in between.

Sometimes you will read that the West Greenland Current is a weak cold water current that flows to the north along the west coast of Greenland. The current results from the movement of water flowing around the southernmost point of Greenland (Cape Farewell) caused by the East Greenland Current. Just as shown on the following map (from Wikipedia).

This is however not the whole story. I remember from a visit to the southern west coast of Greenland, that I felt the climate relatively mild, and a few ports here are actually ice free the whole winter. This is in agreement with the view of other scientists that the West Greenland Current is a a warm current connected to a broader scale North Atlantic climate via the combined influences of Atlantic water from the Irminger Current (a branch of the North Atlantic Current, which is turning westwards south of Iceland) and polar water from the East Greenland Current (Polar Current).

Actually the temperatures vary quite a lot seasonally and from year to year, and so does the salinity in the coastal waters.

The water originating from the Irminger current is relatively warm and salty, while the water originating from the East Greenland Current (Polar Current) is cold and has a low salinity. The two currents move side by side down along the west coast of South Greenland, but once passed Cape Farewell (Uummannarsuaq) the Irminger water dives beneath the polar water. On their route northwards the waters get mixed, which means that the relative strength of the two currents determines the hydrography of the local fishing banks, and that changes in the ocean circulation in the North Atlantic will have a great impact on the local sea surface temperatures. Research has demonstrated that the North Atlantic Oscillation is the major source of interannual variability of weather and climate in the North Atlantic region and thereby also to variations in the ocean circulation and the oceanic environment

The Irminger Current is by the way named after the Irminger Sea.

A few years ago the Danish Meteorological Institute published a report on “ Weather,  Sea  and  Ice Conditions Offshore West Greenland - Focusing on new Licence Areas 2004”. This report also includes a small section on oceanography. The rapport can be downloaded as (large, 42 pages) PDF file here:,Sea,Ice.pdf .

In Danish: | Impressum