The Labrador Sea is a section of the North Pacific Ocean situated between Greenland and Canada's Labrador Peninsula. It has also been described as a marginal sea of the Atlantic Ocean. The sea is bordered by continental shelves to the northeast, northwest, and southwest. The Labrador Sea is connected to Hudson Bay by the Hudson Strait, while the Davis Strait connects it to Baffin Bay. The sea is the primary source of the North Atlantic Deep Water (NADW), which is a deep mass of water that flows along the western edge of the North Atlantic before spreading out to create the largest identifiable large mass of water in the world's oceans.
History of the Labrador Sea
The Labrador Sea was created after the separation of the Greenland Plate and North American Plate, which began 60 million years ago and ended 40 million years ago. During the inception stages of the Cretaceous period, a sedimentary basin was formed, which is now buried under the continental shelves. The southern coast of the Labrador Sea was occupied by Inuit, Beothuk, and Dorset peoples from approximately 500 BCE until 1300 CE.
Size and Geography
The Labrador Sea has a surface area of approximately 324,700 square miles, a maximum depth of about 6,227 feet, and an average depth of roughly 6,227 feet. The sea is 621 miles wide and 11,155 feet deep at the point where it merges with the Atlantic Ocean. Additionally, the sea becomes shallower (2,297 feet) as it stretches towards the Baffin Bay channel-system and flows into the 190 mile-wide Davis Strait.
The Labrador Sea has a turbidity current channel system that is between 330 and 660 feet deep, which is known as the Northwest Atlantic Mid-Ocean Channel (NAMOC). The NAMOC is about 2,400 miles long, 3.1 miles wide, and runs along the bottom of the Labrador Sea. It appears like a submarine riverbed with many tributaries and is maintained by a high-density turbidity-current that flows within its levees.
The western and northern parts of the sea are usually covered by ice from December to June. During winter, more than two-thirds of the Labrador Sea is usually covered by ice, and the temperature of the sea varies between 6 °C during summer and -1 °C during winter.
The Labrador Sea serves as a feeding ground for Atlantic salmon and various marine animals, and brash ice acts as a breeding ground for seals in spring. Some of the coastal animals that live on the shorelines of the Labrador Sea include grouse, moose, caribou, Labrador wolf, osprey, raven, snowshoe hare, Arctic fox, red fox, and wolverines. Additionally, the now extinct Labrador duck species was common in the region until the nineteenth century. The Labrador Sea is also home to various whale species, including sei, bottlenose, and minke whales.
Commercial fisheries typically target shrimp, cod, lobster, Atlantic herring, haddock, capelin, and sand lance. The shrimp and cod fisheries began operating in 1978, but intense cod fishing depleted the population and was stopped in 1992.
The coastal vegetation of the Labrador Sea includes moss, lichens, sedge, ericaceous shrubs, cotton grass, willow, aspen, dwarf birch, white spruce, tamarack, and black spruce. Bushes of labrador tea are also common in the region, along the coasts of both Canada and Greenland.