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James Holte and Fiamma Straneo


Argo floats are used to investigate Labrador Sea overturning and its variability on seasonal time scales. This is the first application of Argo floats to estimate overturning in a deep-water formation region in the North Atlantic. Unlike hydrographic measurements, which are typically confined to the summer season, floats offer the advantage of collecting data in all seasons. Seasonal composite potential density and absolute geostrophic velocity sections across the mouth of the Labrador Sea assembled from float profiles and trajectories at 1000 m are used to calculate the horizontal and overturning circulations. The overturning exhibits a pronounced seasonal cycle; in depth space the overturning doubles throughout the course of the year, and in density space it triples. The largest overturning [1.2 Sv (1 Sv ≡ 106 m3 s−1) in depth space and 3.9 Sv in density space] occurs in spring and corresponds to the outflow of recently formed Labrador Sea Water. The overturning decreases through summer and reaches a minimum in winter (0.6 Sv in depth space and 1.2 Sv in density space). The robustness of the Argo seasonal overturning is supported by a comparison to an overturning estimate based on hydrographic data from the AR7W line.

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Rebecca H. Jackson, Steven J. Lentz, and Fiamma Straneo


The fjords that connect Greenland’s glaciers to the ocean are gateways for importing heat to melt ice and for exporting meltwater into the ocean. The transport of heat and meltwater can be modulated by various drivers of fjord circulation, including freshwater, local winds, and shelf variability. Shelf-forced flows (also known as the intermediary circulation) are the dominant mode of variability in two major fjords of east Greenland, but we lack a dynamical understanding of the fjord’s response to shelf forcing. Building on observations from east Greenland, we use numerical simulations and analytical models to explore the dynamics of shelf-driven flows. For the parameter space of Greenlandic fjords, we find that the fjord’s response is primarily a function of three nondimensional parameters: the fjord width over the deformation radius (W/R d), the forcing time scale over the fjord adjustment time scale, and the forcing amplitude (shelf pycnocline displacements) over the upper-layer thickness. The shelf-forced flows in both the numerical simulations and the observations can largely be explained by a simple analytical model for Kelvin waves propagating around the fjord. For fjords with W/R d > 0.5 (most Greenlandic fjords), 3D dynamics are integral to understanding shelf forcing—the fjord dynamics cannot be approximated with 2D models that neglect cross-fjord structure. The volume flux exchanged between the fjord and shelf increases for narrow fjords and peaks around the resonant forcing frequency, dropping off significantly at higher- and lower-frequency forcing.

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Isabela Le Bras, Fiamma Straneo, Morven Muilwijk, Lars H. Smedsrud, Feili Li, M. Susan Lozier, and N. Penny Holliday


Fresh Arctic waters flowing into the Atlantic are thought to have two primary fates. They may be mixed into the deep ocean as part of the overturning circulation, or flow alongside regions of deep water formation without impacting overturning. Climate models suggest that as increasing amounts of fresh water enter the Atlantic, the overturning circulation will be disrupted, yet we lack an understanding of how much fresh water is mixed into the overturning circulation’s deep limb in the present day. To constrain these fresh water pathways, we build steady-state volume, salt, and heat budgets east of Greenland that are initialized with observations and closed using inverse methods. Fresh water sources are split into oceanic Polar Waters from the Arctic and surface fresh water fluxes, which include net precipitation, runoff, and ice melt, to examine how they imprint the circulation differently. We find that 65 mSv of the total 110 mSv of surface fresh water fluxes that enter our domain participate in the overturning circulation, as do 0.6 Sv of the total 1.2 Sv of Polar Waters that flow through Fram Strait. Based on these results, we hypothesize that the overturning circulation is more sensitive to future changes in Arctic fresh water outflow and precipitation, while Greenland runoff and iceberg melt are more likely to stay along the coast of Greenland.

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