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The Eastern Boundary of the Subtropical North Atlantic

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  • 1 Laboratoire de Physique des Océans, Unité Mixie CNRS-IFREMER-Université, IFREMER/Centre de Brest, Plouzané, France
  • | 2 Laboratoire de Physique des Océns, Unité Mixie CNRS-IFREMER-Université, Université de Bretagne Occidentale, Brest, France
  • | 3 LODYC-Université Pierre et Marie Curie, Paris, France
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Abstract

A quasi-meridional hydrographic section carried out between 60° and 20°N offshore from the European and African continental slopes is analyzed in terms of water masses and zonal transports in and out of the eastern boundary. Outstanding features of the meridional distribution of water masses are focused on, such as the transition between North Atlantic and South Atlantic Central Waters at 20°–25°N, the properties and anticyclonic circulation of the Rockall Channel mode water, and the northern boundary of the large-scale Mediterranean Water plume at about 50°N. An eastward transport of about 11×106 m3 s−1 is found to enter the eastern boundary layer at densities lower than 27.25 and feed southward alongshore currents. The relation of the incoming transport to the water mass distribution and its eventual splitting into several outflowing components are discussed. Apart from the downward entrainment of upper water known to occur in the Gulf of Cadiz, there is no sign of the so-called “eastern boundary ventilation” mechanism in the central water density range. Yet a significant transport is found to escape the winter mixed layer toward the interior of the subtropical gyre, suggesting the horizontal southward currents across the sloping bottom of the mixed layer to be the main cause of ventilation at the eastern boundary.

Abstract

A quasi-meridional hydrographic section carried out between 60° and 20°N offshore from the European and African continental slopes is analyzed in terms of water masses and zonal transports in and out of the eastern boundary. Outstanding features of the meridional distribution of water masses are focused on, such as the transition between North Atlantic and South Atlantic Central Waters at 20°–25°N, the properties and anticyclonic circulation of the Rockall Channel mode water, and the northern boundary of the large-scale Mediterranean Water plume at about 50°N. An eastward transport of about 11×106 m3 s−1 is found to enter the eastern boundary layer at densities lower than 27.25 and feed southward alongshore currents. The relation of the incoming transport to the water mass distribution and its eventual splitting into several outflowing components are discussed. Apart from the downward entrainment of upper water known to occur in the Gulf of Cadiz, there is no sign of the so-called “eastern boundary ventilation” mechanism in the central water density range. Yet a significant transport is found to escape the winter mixed layer toward the interior of the subtropical gyre, suggesting the horizontal southward currents across the sloping bottom of the mixed layer to be the main cause of ventilation at the eastern boundary.

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