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James Holte
and
Fiamma Straneo

Abstract

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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James Holte
and
Lynne Talley

Abstract

A new hybrid method for finding the mixed layer depth (MLD) of individual ocean profiles models the general shape of each profile, searches for physical features in the profile, and calculates threshold and gradient MLDs to assemble a suite of possible MLD values. It then analyzes the patterns in the suite to select a final MLD estimate. The new algorithm is provided in online supplemental materials. Developed using profiles from all oceans, the algorithm is compared to threshold methods that use the criteria and to gradient methods using 13 601 Argo profiles from the southeast Pacific and southwest Atlantic Oceans. In general, the threshold methods find deeper MLDs than the new algorithm and the gradient methods produce more anomalous MLDs than the new algorithm. When constrained to using only temperature profiles, the algorithm offers a clear improvement over the temperature threshold and gradient methods; the new temperature algorithm MLDs more closely approximate the density algorithm MLDs than the temperature threshold and gradient MLDs. The algorithm is applied to profiles from a formation region of Subantarctic Mode Water (SAMW) and Antarctic Intermediate Water (AAIW). The density algorithm finds that the deepest MLDs in this region routinely reach 500 dbar and occur north of the mean Subantarctic Front in the southeastern Pacific Ocean. The deepest MLDs typically occur in August and September and are congruent with the subsurface salinity minimum, a signature of AAIW.

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Bernadette M. Sloyan
,
Lynne D. Talley
,
Teresa K. Chereskin
,
Rana Fine
, and
James Holte

Abstract

During the 2005 austral winter (late August–early October) and 2006 austral summer (February–mid-March) two intensive hydrographic surveys of the southeast Pacific sector of the Southern Ocean were completed. In this study the turbulent kinetic energy dissipation rate ϵ, diapycnal diffusivity κ, and buoyancy flux Jb are estimated from the CTD/O2 and XCTD profiles for each survey. Enhanced κ of O(10−3 to 10−4 m2 s−1) is found near the Subantarctic Front (SAF) during both surveys. During the winter survey, enhanced κ was also observed north of the “subduction front,” the northern boundary of the winter deep mixed layer north of the SAF. In contrast, the summer survey found enhanced κ across the entire region north of the SAF below the shallow seasonal mixed layer. The enhanced κ below the mixed layer decays rapidly with depth. A number of ocean processes are considered that may provide the energy flux necessary to support the observed diffusivity. The observed buoyancy flux (4.0 × 10−8 m2 s−3) surrounding the SAF during the summer survey is comparable to the mean buoyancy flux (0.57 × 10−8 m2 s−3) associated with the change in the interior stratification between austral summer and autumn, determined from Argo profiles. The authors suggest that reduced ocean stratification during austral summer and autumn, by interior mixing, preconditions the water column for the rapid development of deep mixed layers and efficient Antarctic Intermediate Water and Subantarctic Mode Water formation during austral winter and early spring.

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Morven Muilwijk
,
Fiamma Straneo
,
Donald A. Slater
,
Lars H. Smedsrud
,
James Holte
,
Michael Wood
,
Camilla S. Andresen
, and
Ben Harden

Abstract

Meltwater from Greenland is an important freshwater source for the North Atlantic Ocean, released into the ocean at the head of fjords in the form of runoff, submarine melt, and icebergs. The meltwater release gives rise to complex in-fjord transformations that result in its dilution through mixing with other water masses. The transformed waters, which contain the meltwater, are exported from the fjords as a new water mass Glacially Modified Water (GMW). Here we use summer hydrographic data collected from 2013 to 2019 in Upernavik, a major glacial fjord in northwest Greenland, to describe the water masses that flow into the fjord from the shelf and the exported GMWs. Using an optimum multi-parameter technique across multiple years we then show that GMW is composed of 57.8% ± 8.1% Atlantic Water (AW), 41.0% ± 8.3% Polar Water (PW), 1.0% ± 0.1% subglacial discharge, and 0.2% ± 0.2% submarine meltwater. We show that the GMW fractional composition cannot be described by buoyant plume theory alone since it includes lateral mixing within the upper layers of the fjord not accounted for by buoyant plume dynamics. Consistent with its composition, we find that changes in GMW properties reflect changes in the AW and PW source waters. Using the obtained dilution ratios, this study suggests that the exchange across the fjord mouth during summer is on the order of 50 mSv (1 Sv ≡ 106 m3 s−1) (compared to a freshwater input of 0.5 mSv). This study provides a first-order parameterization for the exchange at the mouth of glacial fjords for large-scale ocean models.

Open access
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.

Free access