Faroe Shelf Water

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38 Citations (Scopus)


Faroe Shelf Water (FSW) is the water mass that occupies the shallow parts of the Faroe Shelf, surrounding the Faroe Islands (621N, 71W). Intensive tidal mixing induces a high degree of homogeneity and the circulation system allows a partial isolation from surrounding waters. This water mass, therefore, supports a unique ecosystem of great importance for commercial fish stocks and studies have shown a clear dependence of the ecosystem on the physical processes that maintain this system and control the exchange between the FSW and the off-shelf waters. In order to identify and quantify these processes, a large observational dataset has been analysed and related to alternative theories. From this analysis, the extent and properties of the FSW have been quantified and the degree of stratification explained in terms of the Simpson–Hunter theory. The residual clockwise circulation system, which is responsible for the partial isolation from off-shelf waters, is shown to be mainly generated by tidal rectification. The typical exchange rate of water between the FSW and the off-shelf regimes has been determined by the use of simple models based on the heat and the salt budgets but the actual exchange rate is found to vary considerably in time and space. These results support earlier suggestions that this exchange is the main limiting factor for the phytoplankton spring bloom on the Faroe Shelf and that variations in exchange rate are responsible for the large inter-annual variation in spring bloom timing and intensity. The observations indicate that the on-shelf/off-shelf exchange intensity is not symmetrically distributed around the shelf, but rather concentrated around the narrow southern tip of the Faroe Shelf, where off-shelf waters during intensive exchange events may be imported all the way to the shore.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1754-1768
Number of pages15
JournalContinental Shelf Research
Issue number14
Publication statusPublished - 4 May 2008


  • Shelf dynamics
  • tidal currents
  • tidal mixing
  • heat budget
  • exchange processes
  • Faroe Shelf
  • Faroe Islands (62.51N, 8.01W 61.01N, 6.01W)


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