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Horizontal Stratification during Deep Convection in the Labrador Sea

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  • 1 University of Southampton, Southampton, Southampton, United Kingdom
  • | 2 University of Washington, Seattle, Washington
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Abstract

Deep convection—the process by which surface waters are mixed down to 1000 m or deeper—forms the primary downwelling of the meridional overturning circulation in the Northern Hemisphere. High-resolution hydrographic measurements from Seagliders indicate that during deep convection—though water is well mixed vertically—there is substantial horizontal variation in density over short distances (tens of kilometers). This horizontal density variability present in winter (January–February) contains sufficient buoyancy to restratify the convecting region to observed levels 2.5 months later, as estimated from Argo floating platforms. These results highlight the importance of small-scale heterogeneities in the ocean that are typically poorly represented in climate models, potentially contributing to the difficulty climate models have in representing deep convection.

Corresponding author address: Eleanor Frajka-Williams, National Oceanography Centre, University of Southampton Waterfront Campus, European Way, Southampton, Hampshire SO14 3ZH, United Kingdom. E-mail: e.frajka-williams@soton.ac.uk

Abstract

Deep convection—the process by which surface waters are mixed down to 1000 m or deeper—forms the primary downwelling of the meridional overturning circulation in the Northern Hemisphere. High-resolution hydrographic measurements from Seagliders indicate that during deep convection—though water is well mixed vertically—there is substantial horizontal variation in density over short distances (tens of kilometers). This horizontal density variability present in winter (January–February) contains sufficient buoyancy to restratify the convecting region to observed levels 2.5 months later, as estimated from Argo floating platforms. These results highlight the importance of small-scale heterogeneities in the ocean that are typically poorly represented in climate models, potentially contributing to the difficulty climate models have in representing deep convection.

Corresponding author address: Eleanor Frajka-Williams, National Oceanography Centre, University of Southampton Waterfront Campus, European Way, Southampton, Hampshire SO14 3ZH, United Kingdom. E-mail: e.frajka-williams@soton.ac.uk
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