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Peter Brandt, Verena Hormann, Arne Körtzinger, Martin Visbeck, Gerd Krahmann, Lothar Stramma, Rick Lumpkin, and Claudia Schmid

Abstract

Changes in the ventilation of the oxygen minimum zone (OMZ) of the tropical North Atlantic are studied using oceanographic data from 18 research cruises carried out between 28.5° and 23°W during 1999–2008 as well as historical data referring to the period 1972–85. In the core of the OMZ at about 400-m depth, a highly significant oxygen decrease of about 15 μmol kg−1 is found between the two periods. During the same time interval, the salinity at the oxygen minimum increased by about 0.1. Above the core of the OMZ, within the central water layer, oxygen decreased too, but salinity changed only slightly or even decreased. The scatter in the local oxygen–salinity relations decreased from the earlier to the later period suggesting a reduced filamentation due to mesoscale eddies and/or zonal jets acting on the background gradients. Here it is suggested that latitudinally alternating zonal jets with observed amplitudes of a few centimeters per second in the depth range of the OMZ contribute to the ventilation of the OMZ. A conceptual model of the ventilation of the OMZ is used to corroborate the hypothesis that changes in the strength of zonal jets affect mean oxygen levels in the OMZ. According to the model, a weakening of zonal jets, which is in general agreement with observed hydrographic evidences, is associated with a reduction of the mean oxygen levels that could significantly contribute to the observed deoxygenation of the North Atlantic OMZ.

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Friedrich Schott, Martin Visbeck, Uwe Send, Jürgen Fischer, Lothar Stramma, and Yves Desaubies

Abstract

During December 1991 to April 1992 measurements with moored acoustic Doppler current profiler (ADCP) stations and shipboard surveys were carried out in the convection regime of the Gulf of Lions, northwestern Mediterranean. First significant mixed layer deepening and generation of internal waves in the stratified intermediate layer occurred during a mistral cooling phase in late December. Mixed layer deepening to about 400 m, eroding the salinity maximum layer of saltier and warmer Levantine Intermediate Water and causing temporary surface-layer warming, followed during a second cooling period of late January.

During a mistral cooling period from 18 to 23 February 1992, convection to 1500-m depth was observed, where the size of the convection regime was 50–100 km extent. Vertical velocities 40–640 m deep, recorded by four ADCPs of a triangular moored array of 2 km sidelength in the center of the convection regime, exceeded 5 cm s−1 and were not correlated over the separation of the moorings. Horizontal scales estimated from event duration and advection velocity were only around 500 m, in agreement with scaling arguments for convective plumes. Plume activity during nighttime cooling was larger than daytime daytime. Significant evidence for rotation of the plumes could not be found. Overall, plume energy, and the degree of mixing accomplished by them, was much lower than observed during a stronger mistral in February 1987.

The mean vertical velocity over the mistral period, determined from the four ADCPs, was near zero, confirming the role of plumes as mixing agents rather than as part of a mean downdraft in a convection regime. The cyclonic rim current around the convection regime was confined to a strip of <20 km width with an average velocity of about 10 cm s−1, which is in agreement with near-zero vertical mean velocity in the interior based on potential vorticity conservation. A relation between variations of the larger-scale cyclonic North Mediterranean Current along the boundary and the deep convection could not be identified. An unexplained feature still is the cover of the convection regime by a shallow layer of light water that moves in rather quickly from the sides after the cooling ends.

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Richard Seager, Yochanan Kushnir, Martin Visbeck, Naomi Naik, Jennifer Miller, Gerd Krahmann, and Heidi Cullen

Abstract

Numerical experiments are performed to examine the causes of variability of Atlantic Ocean SST during the period covered by the National Centers for Environmental Prediction–National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCEP–NCAR) reanalysis (1958–98). Three ocean models are used. Two are mixed layer models: one with a 75-m-deep mixed layer and the other with a variable depth mixed layer. For both mixed layer models the ocean heat transports are assumed to remain at their diagnosed climatological values. The third model is a full dynamical ocean general circulation model (GCM). All models are coupled to a model of the subcloud atmospheric mixed layer (AML). The AML model computes the air temperature and humidity by balancing surface fluxes, radiative cooling, entrainment at cloud base, advection and eddy heat, and moisture transports. The models are forced with NCEP–NCAR monthly mean winds from 1958 to 1998.

The ocean mixed layer models adequately reproduce the dominant pattern of Atlantic Ocean climate variability in both its spatial pattern and time dependence. This pattern is the familiar tripole of alternating zonal bands of SST anomalies stretching between the subpolar gyre and the subtropics. This SST pattern goes along with a wind pattern that corresponds to the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO). Analysis of the results reveals that changes in wind speed create the subtropical SST anomalies while at higher latitudes changes in advection of temperature and humidity and changes in atmospheric eddy fluxes are important.

An observational analysis of the boundary layer energy balance is also performed. Anomalous atmospheric eddy heat fluxes are very closely tied to the SST anomalies. Anomalous horizontal eddy fluxes damp the SST anomalies while anomalous vertical eddy fluxes tend to cool the entire midlatitude North Atlantic during the NAO’s high-index phase with the maximum cooling exactly where the SST gradient is strengthened the most.

The SSTs simulated by the ocean mixed layer model are compared with those simulated by the dynamic ocean GCM. In the far North Atlantic Ocean anomalous ocean heat transports are equally important as surface fluxes in generating SST anomalies and they act constructively. The anomalous heat transports are associated with anomalous Ekman drifts and are consequently in phase with the changing surface fluxes. Elsewhere changes in surface fluxes dominate over changes in ocean heat transport. These results suggest that almost all of the variability of the North Atlantic SST in the last four decades can be explained as a response to changes in surface fluxes caused by changes in the atmospheric circulation. Changes in the mean atmospheric circulation force the SST while atmospheric eddy fluxes dampen the SST. Both the interannual variability and the longer timescale changes can be explained in this way. While the authors were unable to find evidence for changes in ocean heat transport systematically leading or lagging development of SST anomalies, this leaves open the problem of explaining the causes of the low-frequency variability. Possible causes are discussed with reference to the modeling results.

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Jonathan M. Lilly, Peter B. Rhines, Martin Visbeck, Russ Davis, John R. N. Lazier, Friedrich Schott, and David Farmer

Abstract

A 12-month mooring record (May 1994–June 1995), together with accompanying PALACE float data, is used to describe an annual cycle of deep convection and restratification in the Labrador Sea. The mooring is located at 56.75°N, 52.5°W, near the former site of Ocean Weather Station Bravo, in water of ∼3500 m depth. This is a pilot experiment for climate monitoring, and also for studies of deep-convection dynamics. Mooring measurements include temperature (T), salinity (S), horizontal and vertical velocity, and acoustic measurement of surface winds. The floats made weekly temperature–salinity profiles between their drift level (near 1500 m) and the surface.

With moderately strong cooling to the atmosphere (∼300 W m−2 averaged from November to March), wintertime convection penetrated from the surface to about 1750 m, overcoming the stabilizing effect of upper-ocean low-salinity water. The water column restratifies rapidly after brief vertical homogenization (in potential density, salinity, and potential temperature). Both the rapid restratification and the energetic high-frequency variations of T and S observed at the mooring are suggestive of a convection depth that varies greatly with location. Lateral variations in T and S exist down to very small scales, and these remnants of convection decay (with e-folding time ∼170 day) after convection ceases. Lateral variability at the scale of 100 km is verified by PALACE profiles. The Eulerian mooring effectively samples the convection in a mesoscale region of ocean as eddies sweep past it; the Lagrangian PALACE floats are complementary in sampling the geography of deep convection more widely. This laterally variable convection leaves the water column with significant vertical gradients most of the year. Convection followed by lateral mixing gives vertical salinity profiles the (misleading) appearance that a one-dimensional diffusive process is fluxing freshwater downward.

During spring, summer, and fall the salinity, temperature, and buoyancy rise steadily with time throughout most of the water column. This is likely the result of mixing with the encircling boundary currents, compensating for the escape of Labrador Sea Water from the region. Low-salinity water mixes into the gyre only near the surface.

The water-column heat balance is in satisfactory agreement with meteorological assimilation models. Directly observed subsurface calorimetry may be the more reliable indication of the annual-mean air–sea heat flux. Acoustic instrumentation on the mooring gave a surprisingly good time series of the vector surface wind.

The three-dimensional velocity field consists of convective plumes of width ∼200 to 1000 m, vertical velocities of 2 to 8 cm s−1, and Rossby numbers of order unity, embedded in stronger (∼20 cm s−1) lateral currents associated with mesoscale eddies. Horizontal currents with timescales of several days to several months are strongly barotropic. They are suddenly energized as convection reaches great depth in early March, and develop toward a barotropic state, as also seen in models of convectively driven geostrophic turbulence in a weakly stratified, high-latitude ocean. Currents decay through the summer and autumn, apart from some persistent isolated eddies. These coherent, isolated, cold anticyclones carry cores of pure convected water long after the end of winter.

Boundary currents nearby interact with the Labrador Sea gyre and provide an additional source of eddies in the interior Labrador Sea. An earlier study of the pulsation of the boundary currents is supported by observations of sudden ejection of floats from the central gyre into the boundary currents (and sudden ingestion of boundary current floats into the gyre interior), in what may be a mechanism for exchange between Labrador Sea Water and the World Ocean.

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Molly Baringer, Mariana B. Bif, Tim Boyer, Seth M. Bushinsky, Brendan R. Carter, Ivona Cetinić, Don P. Chambers, Lijing Cheng, Sanai Chiba, Minhan Dai, Catia M. Domingues, Shenfu Dong, Andrea J. Fassbender, Richard A. Feely, Eleanor Frajka-Williams, Bryan A. Franz, John Gilson, Gustavo Goni, Benjamin D. Hamlington, Zeng-Zhen Hu, Boyin Huang, Masayoshi Ishii, Svetlana Jevrejeva, William E. Johns, Gregory C. Johnson, Kenneth S. Johnson, John Kennedy, Marion Kersalé, Rachel E. Killick, Peter Landschützer, Matthias Lankhorst, Tong Lee, Eric Leuliette, Feili Li, Eric Lindstrom, Ricardo Locarnini, Susan Lozier, John M. Lyman, John J. Marra, Christopher S. Meinen, Mark A. Merrifield, Gary T. Mitchum, Ben Moat, Didier Monselesan, R. Steven Nerem, Renellys C. Perez, Sarah G. Purkey, Darren Rayner, James Reagan, Nicholas Rome, Alejandra Sanchez-Franks, Claudia Schmid, Joel P. Scott, Uwe Send, David A. Siegel, David A. Smeed, Sabrina Speich, Paul W. Stackhouse Jr., William Sweet, Yuichiro Takeshita, Philip R. Thompson, Joaquin A. Triñanes, Martin Visbeck, Denis L. Volkov, Rik Wanninkhof, Robert A. Weller, Toby K. Westberry, Matthew J. Widlansky, Susan E. Wijffels, Anne C. Wilber, Lisan Yu, Weidong Yu, and Huai-Min Zhang
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