Spreading of Denmark Strait overflow water in the western subpolar North Atlantic : insights from eddy-resolving simulations with a passive tracer
Rhines, Peter B.
Chassignet, Eric P.
Schmitz, William J.
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KeywordCirculation/ Dynamics; Abyssal circulation; Boundary currents; Ocean circulation; Ocean dynamics; Potential vorticity; Topographic effects
The oceanic deep circulation is shared between concentrated deep western boundary currents (DWBCs) and broader interior pathways, a process that is sensitive to seafloor topography. This study investigates the spreading and deepening of Denmark Strait overflow water (DSOW) in the western subpolar North Atlantic using two ° eddy-resolving Atlantic simulations, including a passive tracer injected into the DSOW. The deepest layers of DSOW transit from a narrow DWBC in the southern Irminger Sea into widespread westward flow across the central Labrador Sea, which remerges along the Labrador coast. This abyssal circulation, in contrast to the upper levels of overflow water that remain as a boundary current, blankets the deep Labrador Sea with DSOW. Farther downstream after being steered around the abrupt topography of Orphan Knoll, DSOW again leaves the boundary, forming cyclonic recirculation cells in the deep Newfoundland basin. The deep recirculation, mostly driven by the meandering pathway of the upper North Atlantic Current, leads to accumulation of tracer offshore of Orphan Knoll, precisely where a local maximum of chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) inventory is observed. At Flemish Cap, eddy fluxes carry ~20% of the tracer transport from the boundary current into the interior. Potential vorticity is conserved as the flow of DSOW broadens at the transition from steep to less steep continental rise into the Labrador Sea, while around the abrupt topography of Orphan Knoll, potential vorticity is not conserved and the DSOW deepens significantly.
Author Posting. © American Meteorological Society, 2015. This article is posted here by permission of American Meteorological Society for personal use, not for redistribution. The definitive version was published in Journal of Physical Oceanography 45 (2015): 2913–2932, doi:10.1175/JPO-D-14-0179.1.
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