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Robert S. Pickart, Daniel J. Torres, and Paula S. Fratantoni

Abstract

High-resolution hydrographic and velocity measurements across the East Greenland shelf break south of Denmark Strait have revealed an intense, narrow current banked against the upper continental slope. This is believed to be the result of dense water cascading over the shelf edge and entraining ambient water. The current has been named the East Greenland Spill Jet. It resides beneath the East Greenland/Irminger Current and transports roughly 2 Sverdrups of water equatorward. Strong vertical mixing occurs during the spilling, although the entrainment farther downstream is minimal. A vorticity analysis reveals that the increase in cyclonic relative vorticity within the jet is partly balanced by tilting vorticity, resulting in a sharp front in potential vorticity reminiscent of the Gulf Stream. The other components of the Irminger Sea boundary current system are described, including a presentation of absolute transports.

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Robert S. Pickart, Daniel J. Torres, and R. Allyn Clarke

Abstract

The hydrographic structure of the Labrador Sea during wintertime convection is described. The cruise, part of the Deep Convection Experiment, took place in February–March 1997 amidst an extended period of strong forcing in an otherwise moderate winter. Because the water column was preconditioned by previous strong winters, the limited forcing was enough to cause convection to approximately 1500 m. The change in heat storage along a transbasin section, relative to an occupation done the previous October, gives an average heat loss that is consistent with calibrated National Centers for Environmental Prediction surface heat fluxes over that time period (∼200 W m−2). Deep overturning was observed both seaward of the western continental slope (which was expected), as well as within the western boundary current itself—something that had not been directly observed previously. These two geographical regions, separated by roughly the 3000-m isobath, produce separate water mass products. The offshore water mass is the familiar cold/fresh/dense classical Labrador Sea Water (LSW). The boundary current water mass is a somewhat warmer, saltier, lighter vintage of classical LSW (though in the far field it would be difficult to distinguish these products). The offshore product was formed within the cyclonic recirculating gyre measured by Lavender et al. in a region that is limited to the north, most likely by an eddy flux of buoyant water from the eastern boundary current. The velocity measurements taken during the cruise provide a transport estimate of the boundary current “throughput” and offshore “recirculation.” Finally, the overall trends in stratification of the observed mixed layers are described.

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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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Marshall Swartz, Daniel J. Torres, Steve Liberatore, and Robert Millard

Abstract

A data telemetry technique for communicating over standard oceanographic sea cables that achieves a nearly 100-fold increase in bandwidth as compared to traditional systems has been recently developed and successfully used at sea on board two Research Vessel (R/V) Atlantis cruises with an 8.5-km, 0.322-in.-diameter three-conductor sea cable. The system uses commercially available modules to provide Ethernet connectivity through existing sea cables, linking serial and video underwater instrumentation to the shipboard user. The new method applies Synchronous Digital Subscriber Line (SDSL) communications technology to undersea applications, greatly increasing the opportunities to use scientific instrumentation from existing ships and sea cables at minimal cost and without modification.

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Stefanie Semper, Kjetil Våge, Robert S. Pickart, Héðinn Valdimarsson, Daniel J. Torres, and Steingrímur Jónsson

Abstract

The North Icelandic Jet (NIJ) is an important source of dense water to the overflow plume passing through Denmark Strait. The properties, structure, and transport of the NIJ are investigated for the first time along its entire pathway following the continental slope north of Iceland, using 13 hydrographic/velocity surveys of high spatial resolution conducted between 2004 and 2018. The comprehensive dataset reveals that the current originates northeast of Iceland and increases in volume transport by roughly 0.4 Sv (1 Sv ≡ 106 m3 s−1) per 100 km until 300 km upstream of Denmark Strait, at which point the highest transport is reached. The bulk of the NIJ transport is confined to a small area in Θ–S space centered near −0.29° ± 0.16°C in Conservative Temperature and 35.075 ± 0.006 g kg−1 in Absolute Salinity. While the hydrographic properties of this transport mode are not significantly modified along the NIJ’s pathway, the transport estimates vary considerably between and within the surveys. Neither a clear seasonal signal nor a consistent link to atmospheric forcing was found, but barotropic and/or baroclinic instability is likely active in the current. The NIJ displays a double-core structure in roughly 50% of the occupations, with the two cores centered at the 600- and 800-m isobaths, respectively. The transport of overflow water 300 km upstream of Denmark Strait exceeds 1.8 ± 0.3 Sv, which is substantially larger than estimates from a year-long mooring array and hydrographic/velocity surveys closer to the strait, where the NIJ merges with the separated East Greenland Current. This implies a more substantial contribution of the NIJ to the Denmark Strait overflow plume than previously envisaged.

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Robert S. Pickart, Theresa K. McKee, Daniel J. Torres, and Stephanie A. Harrington

Abstract

Two sets of repeat hydrographic sections, centered at 55°W and 50°W, are used to study the mean features and long-term variability of the slopewater system south of Newfoundland, inshore of the Gulf Stream. The upper-layer flow is considered first, consisting of the westward-flowing Labrador Current at the shelfbreak (input into the slopewater system) and the eastward-flowing slopewater current over midslope (export out of the slopewater system). Particular attention is paid to the slopewater current, as this is a less well-known feature. The velocity structure of the slopewater current is different at the two longitudes, associated with a change in structure of the density front. Its mean transport is found to be significantly less than historical estimates. Both the lateral position and the strength of the current vary on long timescales. These fluctuations are correlated with the variability of the Labrador Current, as well as with changes in the deeper components of the slopewater (the Labrador Sea Water and Denmark Strait overflow water). The general picture that emerges is that the entire upper-layer slopewater circulation spins up/down on interannual timescales, coincident with strengthening/weakening of the overflow component of the deep western boundary current. Interestingly, more undiluted Labrador Sea Water is present in the spundown state.

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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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