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The Kara Sea

The Kara Sea is called the realm of the large rivers and streams. The shelf-sea is located north of the Ob and Yenisei estuaries at the margin of the Arctic Ocean. (Photo NASA)

The Kara Sea is called the realm of the large rivers and streams. The shelf-sea is located north of the Ob and Yenisei estuaries at the margin of the Arctic Ocean. Novaya Zemlya, the sickle-shaped island, is the western boundary of the Kara Sea, while the northern boundary towards the central Arctic Ocean is represented by the island groups of Franz-Josef-Land and Severnaya Zemlya.

 

Extended areas of the Kara Sea have water depths below 200m. A deep, submarine canyon running along the east coast of Novaya Zemlya - the so-called Novaya Zemlya Trough - is the most remarkable bathymetric phenomenon on the Kara Sea floor.

 

Via the Strait of Vilkitskii, a narrow gate between the Taymyr Peninsula and Severnaya Zemlya in the eastern part of the shelf-sea, the Kara Sea is connected to the adjacent Laptev Sea. To the west, the shelf-sea is connected via Kara Strait to the Barents Sea. Up to the north, the Kara Sea is open to the Arctic Mediterranean Sea. Both via the St. Anna and Voronin Troughs the shelf is influenced by central Arctic and Atlantic water masses. During summer, the near-coastal waters are largely brackish or nearly completely freshened due to high discharge from the Ob and Yenisei rivers.

 

During winter, a thick and extended fast ice cover develops along the Kara Sea coastline. Between the coastal fast ice and the adjacent drifting ice, areas of open water - the so-called polynyas or flaw leads - occur subsequent to offshore winds (see more detail: Laptev Sea).

 

The Kara Sea climate is predominated by the air mass distribution between the Siberian mainland (`Siberian high´) and the European North Polar Sea (`Iceland low´). Subsequent to the low pressure systems streaming in from the Greenland-Norwegian Sea, the Kara Sea has a much milder climate as compared to the eastern Laptev Sea, which is more influenced by continental air masses.