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Last updated on April 20, 2014 at 8:28 EDT

Baffin Bay

Baffin Bay, which is located between Baffin Island and the southwest coast of Greenland, is a marginal sea of the North Atlantic Ocean. It’s connected to the Atlantic by Davis Strait and the Labrador Sea. A narrower Nares Strait connects the Baffin Bay with the Arctic Ocean.

The Baffin Bay is an arm of the Atlantic Ocean that is bordered by Baffin Island towards the west, Greenland towards the east, and Ellesmere Island towards the north. It is connected to the Atlantic through the Davis Strait, and to the Arctic through several narrow channels of Nares Strait. It can be viewed as a long strait dividing Baffin Island and Greenland also.

The bay is less than 3,300 feet deep by the coast, where the bottom of the sea is blanketed with gravel, crushed stone and sand. In the center, there is a deep pit named Baffin Hollow that reaches 7,008 feet, which is mainly covered in silt. Some currents create a cyclonic circulation. On the eastern periphery, during the summer, the West Greenland Current carries water from the Atlantic Ocean towards the North. In the western portion, the Baffin Island Current carries the Arctic waters towards the south.

The climate in Baffin Bay is Arctic with frequent storms, particularly during the winter. The average January temperatures are -4 degrees Fahrenheit in the south and -18 degrees Fahrenheit in the north. During July, the temperature averages around 45 degrees Fahrenheit. The annual precipitation is about 3.9 to 9.8 inches on the Greenland side and about twice larger by the Baffin Island.

The temperature of the surface of the water is below 30 degrees Fahrenheit during the winter. During the summer, it varies from 39 to 41 degrees Fahrenheit towards the south-east to 32 degrees Fahrenheit and below in the north-west. The salinity of the water goes beyond 34 percent during the winter. In the summer, it’s 32 percent in the east and 30 to 31 percent in the west. Some deep waters are created as a result of the mixing of Arctic and Atlantic waters; their temperature is approximately 31.1 degrees Fahrenheit and the salinity is 34.5 percent. During the winter, 80 percent of the bay is blanketed with continuous ice, floating ice and fast ice. In some of the winters, the continuous ice extends from shore to shore. The ice is most plentiful in March and least abundant during August to September. During the summer, drifting ice stays in the central and western portions of the bay. Numerous icebergs are created in this period and are carried, together with ice, to the Atlantic Ocean by Newfoundland.

The tides in Baffin Bay are semidiurnal, with the height averaging 13 feet and the maximum height of 30 feet. The speed varies between 0.62 and 2.3 miles per hour and the direction by as much as 180 degrees. The variability causes crushing and collision of old, fresh, and pack ice. The winds are mainly north-western throughout the whole year. Eastern and south-eastern winds are frequent during the months of August and July.

Image Caption: A lonely ship in a Fog at Baffin Bay. Credit: Brocken Inaglory/Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Baffin Bay