Seasonal and interannual variability of the West Greenland Current System in the Labrador Sea in 1993–2008
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KeywordLabrador Sea; Seasonal variability; Interannual variability; West Greenland Current; Irminger Current; Observations
The West Greenland Current System (WGCS) transports heat and freshwater into the Labrador Sea, influencing the formation of Labrador Sea Water, a key component of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation. Notwithstanding its importance, relatively little is known about the structure and transport of this current system and its seasonal and interannual variability. Here we use historical hydrographic data from 1992 to 2008, combined with AVISO satellite altimetry, to diagnose the mean properties as well as seasonal and interannual variability of the boundary current system. We find that while the surface, fresh, cold West Greenland Current is amplified in summer, the subsurface warm, salty Irminger Current has maximum transport in winter, when its waters are also warmer and saltier. Seasonal changes in the total transport are thus mostly due to changes in the baroclinic structure of the current. By contrast, we find a trend toward warmer/saltier waters and a slowdown of the WGCS, within the period studied. The latter is attributed to changes in the barotropic component of the current. Superimposed on this trend, warm and salty anomalies transit through the system in 1997 and 2003 and are associated with a rapid increase in the transport of the boundary current due to changes in the baroclinic component. The boundary current changes precede similar changes in the interior with a 1–2 year lag, indicating that anomalies advected into the region by the boundary current can play an important role in the modulation of convection in the Labrador Sea.
Author Posting. © American Geophysical Union, 2015. This article is posted here by permission of American Geophysical Union for personal use, not for redistribution. The definitive version was published in Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans 120 (2015): 1318–1332, doi:10.1002/2014JC010386.
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