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Fiammetta Straneo

Abstract

An isopycnal, two-layer, idealized model for a convective basin is proposed, consisting of a convecting, interior region and a surrounding boundary current (buoyancy and wind-driven). Parameterized eddy fluxes govern the exchange between the two. To balance the interior buoyancy loss, the boundary current becomes denser as it flows around the basin. Geostrophy imposes that this densification be accompanied by sinking in the boundary current and hence by an overturning circulation. The poleward heat transport, associated with convection in the basin, can thus be viewed as a result of both an overturning and a horizontal circulation. When adapted to the Labrador Sea, the model is able to reproduce the bulk features of the mean state, the seasonal cycle, and even the shutdown of convection from 1969 to 1972. According to the model, only 40% of the poleward heat (buoyancy) transport of the Labrador Sea is associated with the overturning circulation. An exact solution is presented for the linearized equations when changes in the boundary current are small. Numerical solutions are calculated for variations in the amount of convection and for changes in the remotely forced circulation around the basin. These results highlight how the overturning circulation is not simply related to the amount of dense water formed. A speeding up of the circulation around the basin due to wind forcing, for example, will decrease the intensity of the overturning circulation while the dense water formation remains unvaried. In general, it is shown that the fraction of poleward buoyancy (or heat) transport carried by the overturning circulation is not an intrinsic property of the basin but can vary as a result of a number of factors.

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Fiammetta Straneo and Mitsuhiro Kawase

Abstract

Although observations indicate that localization of deep convection results from oceanic preconditioning and only to a lesser extent from the gradients in the atmospheric forcing, most laboratory and numerical simulations of oceanic deep convection localize convection via the buoyancy forcing. It is as yet unclear to what extent the localized forcing simplification is representative of realistic preconditioned convection and whether conclusions drawn from analyzing the former scenario can be applied to the latter. Comparison between these two localized convection scenarios is the focus of this study. The analysis is conducted using a high-resolution, nonhydrostatic numerical model that assumes no variations in the latitudinal direction. Although this model cannot represent baroclinic instability, it represents well the violent mixing phase of chimney formation that precedes baroclinic instability. Because of the inherently different initial and boundary conditions, there is no single comparison to be made between the two scenarios; all of the comparisons, however, show that a localized forcing tends to enhance the frontal structures at the edge of the convected water mass. The authors explain these results by means of some simple analytical calculations that indicate that convection as a result of a localized forcing induces a continuous increase in the horizontal density gradient, while convection in a surface-intensified, cyclonic gyre results in a decrease in the horizontal gradient. The authors conclude that the two scenarios are not equivalent and discuss how some of the conclusions, valid for localized forcing, do not necessarily apply to the preconditioned scenario. In particular, the equilibrium state observed in localized forcing simulations, in which the lateral fluxes due to the baroclinic eddies balance the surface buoyancy loss, may not have an analog for the case of preconditioned convection.

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Rebecca H. Jackson and Fiammetta Straneo

Abstract

In Greenland’s glacial fjords, heat and freshwater are exchanged between glaciers and the ocean. Submarine melting of glaciers has been implicated as a potential trigger for recent glacier acceleration, and observations of ocean heat transport are increasingly being used to infer the submarine melt rates. The complete heat, salt, and mass budgets that underlie such methods, however, have been largely neglected. Here, a new framework for exploring glacial fjord budgets is developed. Building on estuarine studies of salt budgets, the heat, salt, and mass transports through the fjord are decomposed, and new equations for calculating freshwater fluxes from submarine meltwater and runoff are presented. This method is applied to moored records from Sermilik Fjord, near the terminus of Helheim Glacier, to evaluate the dominant balances in the fjord budgets and to estimate freshwater fluxes. Throughout the year, two different regimes are found. In the nonsummer months, advective transports are balanced by changes in heat/salt storage within their ability to measure; freshwater fluxes cannot be inferred as a residual. In the summer, a mean exchange flow emerges, consisting of inflowing Atlantic water and outflowing glacially modified water. This exchange transports heat toward the glacier and is primarily balanced by changes in storage and latent heat for melting ice. The total freshwater flux increases over the summer, reaching 1200 ± 700 m3 s−1 of runoff and 1500 ± 500 m3 s−1 of submarine meltwater from glaciers and icebergs in August. The methods and results highlight important components of fjord budgets, particularly the storage and barotropic terms, that have been not been appropriately considered in previous estimates of submarine melting.

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Clark G. Richards and Fiammetta Straneo

Abstract

The Lofoten basin of the Nordic Seas is recognized as a crucial component of the meridional overturning circulation in the North Atlantic because of the large horizontal extent of Atlantic Water and winter surface buoyancy loss. In this study, hydrographic and current measurements collected from a mooring deployed in the Lofoten basin from July 2010 to September 2012 are used to describe water mass transformation and the mesoscale eddy field. Winter mixed layer depths (MLDs) are observed to reach approximately 400 m, with larger MLDs and denser properties resulting from the colder 2010 winter. A heat budget of the upper water column requires lateral input, which balances the net annual heat loss of ~80 W m−2. The lateral flux is a result of mesoscale eddies, which dominate the velocity variability. Eddy velocities are enhanced in the upper 1000 m, with a barotropic component that reaches the bottom. Detailed examination of two eddies, from April and August 2012, highlights the variability of the eddy field and eddy properties. Temperature and salinity properties of the April eddy suggest that it originated from the slope current but was ventilated by surface fluxes. The properties within the eddy were similar to those of the mode water, indicating that convection within the eddies may make an important contribution to water mass transformation. A rough estimate of eddy flux per unit boundary current length suggests that fluxes in the Lofoten basin are larger than in the Labrador Sea because of the enhanced boundary current–interior density difference.

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Fiammetta Straneo, Mitsuhiro Kawase, and Stephen C. Riser

Abstract

Intermediate, or deep, convection in a baroclinic flow occurs along slanted paths parallel to the alongflow absolute momentum surfaces. These surfaces are principally tilted due to the vertical shear in velocity but can be further modified by a nonvertical axis of rotation. An inviscid Lagrangian parcel model, using realistic parameters, is utilized to illustrate, qualitatively, the different scenarios resulting from the combined action of inertial and gravitational forces acting on sinking parcels of dense fluid. More quantitative results are derived from a series of numerical experiments using a zonally invariant, high-resolution, nonhydrostatic model. Convection occuring in a flow with tilted absolute momentum surfaces will mix properties along these slanted surfaces. This implies that the fluid can retain a weak vertical stratification while overturning and also, more importantly, that the evolution of the convective layer cannot be described in terms of one-dimensional, vertical mixing. The authors show, for conditions typical of the Labrador Sea, that the convective layer depth difference between that estimated by mixing vertically and one obtained allowing for slantwise mixing can be greater than 100 m; slantwise convection reaches deeper because of the reduced stratification along the slanted paths. An alternative slantwise mixing scheme, based on the assumption of zero potential vorticity of the convected fluid, is proposed.

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Fiammetta Straneo, Mitsuhiro Kawase, and Robert S. Pickart

Abstract

Large buoyancy loss driving deep convection is often associated with a large wind stress that is typically omitted in simulations of convection. Here it is shown that this omission is not justified when overturning occurs in a horizontally inhomogeneous ocean. In strongly baroclinic flows, convective mixing is influenced both by the background horizontal density gradient and by the across-front advection of buoyancy due to wind. The former process—known as slantwise convection—results in deeper convection, while the effect of wind depends on the relative orientation of wind with respect to the baroclinic front. For the case of the Labrador Sea, wintertime winds act to destabilize the baroclinic Labrador Current causing a buoyancy removal roughly one-third as large as the air–sea buoyancy loss. Simulations using a nonhydrostatic numerical model, initialized and forced with observed fields from the Labrador Sea, show how the combination of wind and lateral gradients can result in significant convection within the current, in contrast with previous ideas. Though the advection of buoyancy due to wind in weakly baroclinic flows is negligible compared to the surface buoyancy removal typical of convective conditions, convective plumes are substantially deformed by wind. This deformation, and the associated across-front secondary circulation, are explained in terms of the vertical advection of wind-generated vorticity from the surface boundary layer to deeper depths. This mechanism generates vertical structure within the convective layer, contradicting the historical notion that properties become vertically homogenized during convection. For the interior Labrador Sea, this mechanism may be partly responsible for the vertical variability observed during convection, which modeling studies have until now failed to reproduce.

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Renske Gelderloos, Fiammetta Straneo, and Caroline A. Katsman

Abstract

From 1969 to 1971 convection in the Labrador Sea shut down, thus interrupting the formation of the intermediate/dense water masses. The shutdown has been attributed to the surface freshening induced by the Great Salinity Anomaly (GSA), a freshwater anomaly in the subpolar North Atlantic. The abrupt resumption of convection in 1972, in contrast, is attributed to the extreme atmospheric forcing of that winter. Here oceanic and atmospheric data collected in the Labrador Sea at Ocean Weather Station Bravo and a one-dimensional mixed layer model are used to examine the causes of the shutdown and resumption of convection in detail. These results highlight the tight coupling of the ocean and atmosphere in convection regions and the need to resolve both components to correctly represent convective processes in the ocean. They are also relevant to present-day conditions given the increased ice melt in the Arctic Ocean and from the Greenland Ice Sheet. The analysis herein shows that the shutdown was initiated by the GSA-induced freshening as well as the mild 1968/69 winter. After the shutdown had begun, however, the continuing lateral freshwater flux as well as two positive feedbacks [both associated with the sea surface temperature (SST) decrease due to lack of convective mixing with warmer subsurface water] further inhibited convection. First, the SST decrease reduced the heat flux to the atmosphere by reducing the air–sea temperature gradient. Second, it further reduced the surface buoyancy loss by reducing the thermal expansion coefficient of the surface water. In 1972 convection resumed because of both the extreme atmospheric forcing and advection of saltier waters into the convection region.

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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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Fiammetta Straneo, Patrick Heimbach, Olga Sergienko, Gordon Hamilton, Ginny Catania, Stephen Griffies, Robert Hallberg, Adrian Jenkins, Ian Joughin, Roman Motyka, W. Tad Pfeffer, Stephen F. Price, Eric Rignot, Ted Scambos, Martin Truffer, and Andreas Vieli

The recent retreat and speedup of outlet glaciers, as well as enhanced surface melting around the ice sheet margin, have increased Greenland's contribution to sea level rise to 0.6 ± 0.1 mm yr−1 and its discharge of freshwater into the North Atlantic. The widespread, near-synchronous glacier retreat, and its coincidence with a period of oceanic and atmospheric warming, suggests a common climate driver. Evidence points to the marine margins of these glaciers as the region from which changes propagated inland. Yet, the forcings and mechanisms behind these dynamic responses are poorly understood and are either missing or crudely parameterized in climate and ice sheet models. Resulting projected sea level rise contributions from Greenland by 2100 remain highly uncertain.

This paper summarizes the current state of knowledge and highlights key physical aspects of Greenland's coupled ice sheet–ocean–atmosphere system. Three research thrusts are identified to yield fundamental insights into ice sheet, ocean, sea ice, and atmosphere interactions, their role in Earth's climate system, and probable trajectories of future changes: 1) focused process studies addressing critical glacier, ocean, atmosphere, and coupled dynamics; 2) sustained observations at key sites; and 3) inclusion of relevant dynamics in Earth system models.

Understanding the dynamic response of Greenland's glaciers to climate forcing constitutes both a scientific and technological frontier, given the challenges of obtaining the appropriate measurements from the glaciers' marine termini and the complexity of the dynamics involved, including the coupling of the ocean, atmosphere, glacier, and sea ice systems. Interdisciplinary and international cooperation are crucial to making progress on this novel and complex problem.

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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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