The Gulf Stream: along-stream evolution of volume transport and water properties observed by underwater gliders

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Date
2021-09
Authors
Heiderich, Joleen
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DOI
10.1575/1912/28982
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Gulf Stream
Autonomous underwater gliders
Volume transport
Abstract
The Gulf Stream, the western boundary current of the subtropical North Atlantic, plays a key role in the Earth’s climate system with its poleward volume and heat transports being major components of the upper limb of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation. Extensive observations collected using Spray autonomous underwater gliders from 2004 through 2020 fill a 1500-km-long gap in longer-term sustained subsurface measurements of the Gulf Stream. The gliders provide concurrent, high-resolution measurements of Gulf Stream hydrography and velocity over more than 15 degrees of latitude between Florida and New England. These observations are used to characterize the along-stream evolution of Gulf Stream volume transport; its long-known poleward increase is shown to result primarily from entrainment of subthermocline waters. Antarctic Intermediate Water, which makes up the deepest waters within the Gulf Stream in the Florida Strait, is eroded through both vertical mixing and lateral stirring as it flows downstream. Satellite-based observations of sea surface height coincident with the glider observations are used to evaluate the efficacy of inferring Gulf Stream transport from remotely sensed measurements. The detailed analyses of Gulf Stream transport and water property evolution herein provide targets for regional and global circulation models to replicate.
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Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution September 2021.
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Heiderich, J. (2021). The Gulf Stream: along-stream evolution of volume transport and water properties observed by underwater gliders [Doctoral thesis, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution]. Woods Hole Open Access Server. https://doi.org/10.1575/1912/28982
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