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Peigen Lin, Robert S. Pickart, Daniel J. Torres, and Astrid Pacini

Abstract

Shipboard hydrographic and velocity measurements collected in summer 2014 are used to study the evolution of the freshwater coastal current in southern Greenland as it encounters Cape Farewell. The velocity structure reveals that the coastal current maintains its identity as it flows around the cape and bifurcates such that most of the flow is diverted to the outer west Greenland shelf, while a small portion remains on the inner shelf. Taking into account this inner branch, the volume transport of the coastal current is conserved, but the freshwater transport decreases on the west side of Cape Farewell. A significant amount of freshwater appears to be transported off the shelf where the outer branch flows adjacent to the shelfbreak circulation. It is argued that the offshore transposition of the coastal current is caused by the flow following the isobaths as they bend offshore because of the widening of the shelf on the west side of Cape Farewell. An analysis of the potential vorticity shows that the subsequent seaward flux of freshwater can be enhanced by instabilities of the current. This set of circumstances provides a pathway for the freshest water originating from the Arctic, as well as runoff from the Greenland ice sheet, to be fluxed into the interior Labrador Sea where it could influence convection in the basin.

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Larry J. Pratt, Gunnar Voet, Astrid Pacini, Shuwen Tan, Matthew H. Alford, Glenn S. Carter, James B. Girton, and Dimitris Menemenlis

Abstract

The main source feeding the abyssal circulation of the North Pacific is the deep, northward flow of 5–6 Sverdrups (Sv; 1 Sv ≡ 106 m3 s−1) through the Samoan Passage. A recent field campaign has shown that this flow is hydraulically controlled and that it experiences hydraulic jumps accompanied by strong mixing and dissipation concentrated near several deep sills. By our estimates, the diapycnal density flux associated with this mixing is considerably larger than the diapycnal flux across a typical isopycnal surface extending over the abyssal North Pacific. According to historical hydrographic observations, a second source of abyssal water for the North Pacific is 2.3–2.8 Sv of the dense flow that is diverted around the Manihiki Plateau to the east, bypassing the Samoan Passage. This bypass flow is not confined to a channel and is therefore less likely to experience the strong mixing that is associated with hydraulic transitions. The partitioning of flux between the two branches of the deep flow could therefore be relevant to the distribution of Pacific abyssal mixing. To gain insight into the factors that control the partitioning between these two branches, we develop an abyssal and equator-proximal extension of the “island rule.” Novel features include provisions for the presence of hydraulic jumps as well as identification of an appropriate integration circuit for an abyssal layer to the east of the island. Evaluation of the corresponding circulation integral leads to a prediction of 0.4–2.4 Sv of bypass flow. The circulation integral clearly identifies dissipation and frictional drag effects within the Samoan Passage as crucial elements in partitioning the flow.

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Astrid Pacini, Robert S. Pickart, Isabela A. Le Bras, Fiammetta Straneo, N. Penny Holliday, and Michael A. Spall

Abstract

The boundary current system in the Labrador Sea plays an integral role in modulating convection in the interior basin. Four years of mooring data from the eastern Labrador Sea reveal persistent mesoscale variability in the West Greenland boundary current. Between 2014 and 2018, 197 middepth intensified cyclones were identified that passed the array near the 2000-m isobath. In this study, we quantify these features and show that they are the downstream manifestation of Denmark Strait Overflow Water (DSOW) cyclones. A composite cyclone is constructed revealing an average radius of 9 km, maximum azimuthal speed of 24 cm s−1, and a core propagation velocity of 27 cm s−1. The core propagation velocity is significantly smaller than upstream near Denmark Strait, allowing them to trap more water. The cyclones transport a 200-m-thick lens of dense water at the bottom of the water column and increase the transport of DSOW in the West Greenland boundary current by 17% relative to the background flow. Only a portion of the features generated at Denmark Strait make it to the Labrador Sea, implying that the remainder are shed into the interior Irminger Sea, are retroflected at Cape Farewell, or dissipate. A synoptic shipboard survey east of Cape Farewell, conducted in summer 2020, captured two of these features that shed further light on their structure and timing. This is the first time DSOW cyclones have been observed in the Labrador Sea—a discovery that could have important implications for interior stratification.

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Astrid Pacini, Robert S. Pickart, Frank Bahr, Daniel J. Torres, Andrée L. Ramsey, James Holte, Johannes Karstensen, Marilena Oltmanns, Fiammetta Straneo, Isabela Astiz Le Bras, G. W. K. Moore, and M. Femke de Jong

Abstract

The structure, transport, and seasonal variability of the West Greenland boundary current system near Cape Farewell are investigated using a high-resolution mooring array deployed from 2014 to 2018. The boundary current system is comprised of three components: the West Greenland Coastal Current, which advects cold and fresh Upper Polar Water (UPW); the West Greenland Current, which transports warm and salty Irminger Water (IW) along the upper slope and UPW at the surface; and the Deep Western Boundary Current, which advects dense overflow waters. Labrador Sea Water (LSW) is prevalent at the seaward side of the array within an offshore recirculation gyre and at the base of the West Greenland Current. The 4-yr mean transport of the full boundary current system is 31.1 ± 7.4 Sv (1 Sv ≡ 106 m3 s−1), with no clear seasonal signal. However, the individual water mass components exhibit seasonal cycles in hydrographic properties and transport. LSW penetrates the boundary current locally, through entrainment/mixing from the adjacent recirculation gyre, and also enters the current upstream in the Irminger Sea. IW is modified through air–sea interaction during winter along the length of its trajectory around the Irminger Sea, which converts some of the water to LSW. This, together with the seasonal increase in LSW entering the current, results in an anticorrelation in transport between these two water masses. The seasonality in UPW transport can be explained by remote wind forcing and subsequent adjustment via coastal trapped waves. Our results provide the first quantitatively robust observational description of the boundary current in the eastern Labrador Sea.

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