The East Greenland Coastal Current : its structure variability, and large-scale impact
Sutherland, David A.
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LocationSoutheast Greenland shelf
The subtidal circulation of the southeast Greenland shelf is described using a set of highresolution hydrographic and velocity transects occupied in summer 2004. The main feature present is the East Greenland Coastal Current (EGCC), a low-salinity, highvelocity jet with a wedge-shaped hydrographic structure characteristic of other surface buoyancy-driven currents. The EGCC was observed along the entire Greenland shelf south of Denmark Strait, while the transect north of the strait showed only a weak shelf flow. This observation, combined with evidence from chemical tracer measurements that imply the EGCC contains a significant Pacific Water signal, suggests that the EGCC is an inner branch of the polar-origin East Greenland Current (EGC). A set of idealized laboratory experiments on the interaction of a buoyant current with a submarine canyon also supported this hypothesis, showing that for the observed range of oceanic parameters, a buoyant current such as the EGC could exhibit both flow across the canyon mouth or into the canyon itself, setting the stage for EGCC formation. Repeat sections occupied at Cape Farewell between 1997 and 2004 show that the alongshelf wind stress can also have a strong influence on the structure and strength of the EGCC and EGC on timescales of 2-3 days. Accounting for the wind-induced effects, the volume transport of the combined EGC/EGCC system is found to be roughly constant (~2 Sv) over the study domain, from 68°N to Cape Farewell near 60°N. The corresponding freshwater transport increases by roughly 60% over this distance (59 to 96 mSv, referenced to a salinity of 34.8). This trend is explained by constructing a simple freshwater budget of the EGCC/EGC system that accounts for meltwater runoff, melting sea-ice and icebergs, and net precipitation minus evaporation. Variability on interannual timescales is examined by calculating the Pacific Water content in the EGC/EGCC from 1984-2004 in the vicinity of Denmark Strait. The PW content is found to correlate significantly with the Arctic Oscillation index, lagged by 9 years, suggesting that the Arctic Ocean circulation patterns bring varying amounts of Pacific Water to the North Atlantic via the EGC/EGCC.
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 February 2008
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