EGU General Assembly 2020
© Author(s) 2022. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Physical drivers of oxygen depletion in the Central and Eastern Baltic Sea

Taavi Liblik, Stella-Theresa Stoicescu, Jaan Laanemets, Oliver Samlas, Kai Salm, Irina Suhhova, Madis-Jaak Lilover, and Urmas Lips
Taavi Liblik et al.
  • Taltech, Department of Marine Systems, Department of Marine Systems, Tallinn, Estonia (

Eutrophication and consequent increase in biomass production and sedimentation of organic material cause oxygen depletion of the deep layers and an increase in hypoxic bottom areas in the Baltic Sea.

The Baltic Sea – a semi-enclosed brackish sea – has restricted water exchange with the North Sea. High fresh water runoff and sporadic inflows of saline water through the Danish Straits maintain stratification. Seasonal thermocline and quasi-permanent halocline, their vertical location, shape and strength are sensitive to atmospheric forcing and influence the oxygen depletion in the near-bottom layer. Physical processes altering deoxygenation in the three sub-basins of the Baltic Sea (Baltic Proper, Gulf of Finland and Gulf of Riga) are under scope of the present overview. Permanent halocline is present in the deep Baltic Proper, while in the Gulf of Finland, it occasionally vanishes during winter. Complete mixing occurs in each winter in the shallow Gulf of Riga separated from the Baltic Proper by the sill. We show that the bathymetry, combined with physical drivers, causes distinct spatial and temporal patterns of oxygen depletion in the basins. The results presented here are a summary of in-situ measurement campaigns conducted by the research vessel, underwater glider, autonomous vertical profiler and bottom moorings in 2011–2020.

Large barotropic inflows from the North Sea temporarily ventilate the deep layer of the Central Baltic Proper, but rather intensify hypoxia in the Northern Baltic Proper and the Gulf of Finland. Wind-driven estuarine circulation alterations shape the hypoxic area and volume in the Gulf of Finland considerably. Seaward winds support estuarine circulation and the advection of hypoxic saltier water of the Northern Baltic Proper into the gulf deep layer. The landward wind can reverse estuarine circulation, the collapse of stratification and mixing of the whole water column in winter (when the seasonal thermocline is absent), thus, temporarily improving oxygen conditions in the deep layer of the gulf. Intrusion of cold saltier water of the Baltic Proper over the sill into the Gulf of Riga deep layer strengthens water column stratification and supports hypoxia formation in summer. Such a water exchange regime is related to the northerly wind forced upwelling along the eastern coast of the Baltic Proper. The role of submesoscale processes on vertical mixing and deep layer ventilation is still unclear, and the data of high-resolution in situ measurements in the Baltic Sea is limited yet. Preliminary results from the dedicated underwater glider surveys conducted at the coastal slope of Eastern Baltic Proper in 2019-2020 will be presented.

How to cite: Liblik, T., Stoicescu, S.-T., Laanemets, J., Samlas, O., Salm, K., Suhhova, I., Lilover, M.-J., and Lips, U.: Physical drivers of oxygen depletion in the Central and Eastern Baltic Sea, EGU General Assembly 2020, Online, 4–8 May 2020, EGU2020-4860,, 2020.

This abstract will not be presented.