Impact of Labrador Sea convection on the North Atlantic meridional overturning circulation

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Pickart, Robert S.
Spall, Michael A.
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Ocean circulation
North Atlantic
The overturning and horizontal circulations of the Labrador Sea are deduced from a composite vertical section across the basin. The data come from the late-spring/early-summer occupations of the World Ocean Circulation Experiment (WOCE) AR7W line, during the years 1990–97. This time period was chosen because it corresponded to intense wintertime convection—the deepest and densest in the historical record—suggesting that the North Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (MOC) would be maximally impacted. The composite geostrophic velocity section was referenced using a mean lateral velocity profile from float data and then subsequently adjusted to balance mass. The analysis was done in depth space to determine the net sinking that results from convection and in density space to determine the diapycnal mass flux (i.e., the transformation of light water to Labrador Sea Water). The mean overturning cell is calculated to be 1 Sv (1 Sv ≡ 106 m3 s−1), as compared with a horizontal gyre of 18 Sv. The total water mass transformation is 2 Sv. These values are consistent with recent modeling results. The diagnosed heat flux of 37.6 TW is found to result predominantly from the horizontal circulation, both in depth space and density space. These results suggest that the North Atlantic MOC is not largely impacted by deep convection in the Labrador Sea.
Author Posting. © American Meteorological Society, 2007. 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 37 (2007): 2207-2227, doi:10.1175/jpo3178.1.
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Journal of Physical Oceanography 37 (2007): 2207-2227
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