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Lisbeth Håvik, Mattia Almansi, Kjetil Våge, and Thomas W. N. Haine

Abstract

Dense water masses transported southward along the east coast of Greenland in the East Greenland Current (EGC) form the largest contribution to the Denmark Strait Overflow. When exiting Denmark Strait these dense water masses sink to depth and feed the deep circulation in the North Atlantic. Based on one year of mooring observations upstream of Denmark Strait and historical hydrographic profiles between Fram Strait and Denmark Strait, we find that a large part (75%) of the overflow water (σθ ≥ 27.8 kg m−3) transported by the EGC is of Atlantic origin (potential temperature θ > 0°C). The along-stream changes in temperature of the Atlantic-origin Water are moderate north of 69°N at the northern end of Blosseville basin, but southward from this point the temperature decreases more rapidly. We hypothesize that this enhanced modification is related to the bifurcation of the EGC taking place close to 69°N into the shelfbreak EGC and the separated EGC. This is associated with enhanced eddy activity and strong water mass modification reducing the intermediate temperature and salinity maxima of the Atlantic-origin Water. During periods with a large (small) degree of modification the separated current is strong (weak). Output from a high-resolution numerical model supports our hypothesis and reveals that large eddy activity is associated with an offshore shift of the surface freshwater layer that characterizes the Greenland shelf. The intensity of the eddy activity regulates the density and the hydrographic properties of the Denmark Strait Overflow Water transported by the EGC system.

Open access
Renske Gelderloos, Thomas W. N. Haine, and Mattia Almansi

Abstract

Ocean currents along the southeast Greenland coast play an important role in the climate system. They carry dense water over the Denmark Strait sill, freshwater from the Arctic and the Greenland Ice Sheet into the subpolar ocean, and warm Atlantic Ocean water into Greenland’s fjords, where it can interact with outlet glaciers. Observational evidence from moorings shows that the circulation in this region displays substantial subinertial variability (typically with periods of several days). For the dense water flowing over the Denmark Strait sill, this variability augments the time-mean transport. It has been suggested that the subinertial variability found in observations is associated with coastal trapped waves, whose properties depend on bathymetry, stratification, and the mean flow. Here, we use the output of a high-resolution realistic simulation to diagnose and characterize subinertial variability in sea surface height and velocity along the coast. The results show that the subinertial signals are coherent over hundreds of kilometers along the shelf. We find coastal trapped waves on the shelf and along the shelf break in two subinertial frequency bands—at periods of 1–3 and 5–18 days—that are consistent with a combination of mode-I waves and higher modes. Furthermore, we find that northeasterly barrier winds may trigger the 5–18-day shelf waves, whereas the 1–3-day variability is linked to high wind speeds over Sermilik Deep.

Open access
Mattia Almansi, Thomas W. N. Haine, Robert S. Pickart, Marcello G. Magaldi, Renske Gelderloos, and Dana Mastropole

Abstract

Initial results are presented from a yearlong, high-resolution (~2 km) numerical simulation covering the east Greenland shelf and the Iceland and Irminger Seas. The model hydrography and circulation in the vicinity of Denmark Strait show good agreement with available observational datasets. This study focuses on the variability of the Denmark Strait overflow (DSO) by detecting and characterizing boluses and pulses, which are the two dominant mesoscale features in the strait. The authors estimate that the yearly mean southward volume flux of the DSO is about 30% greater in the presence of boluses and pulses. On average, boluses (pulses) are 57.1 (27.5) h long, occur every 3.2 (5.5) days, and are more frequent during the summer (winter). Boluses (pulses) increase (decrease) the overflow cross-sectional area, and temperatures around the overflow interface are colder (warmer) by about 2.6°C (1.8°C). The lateral extent of the boluses is much greater than that of the pulses. In both cases the along-strait equatorward flow of dense water is enhanced but more so for pulses. The sea surface height (SSH) rises by 4–10 cm during boluses and by up to 5 cm during pulses. The SSH anomaly contours form a bowl (dome) during boluses (pulses), and the two features cross the strait with a slightly different orientation. The cross streamflow changes direction; boluses (pulses) are associated with veering (backing) of the horizontal current. The model indicates that boluses and pulses play a major role in controlling the variability of the DSO transport into the Irminger Sea.

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Michael A. Spall, Robert S. Pickart, Peigen Lin, Wilken-Jon von Appen, Dana Mastropole, H. Valdimarsson, Thomas W. N. Haine, and Mattia Almansi

Abstract

A high-resolution numerical model, together with in situ and satellite observations, is used to explore the nature and dynamics of the dominant high-frequency (from one day to one week) variability in Denmark Strait. Mooring measurements in the center of the strait reveal that warm water “flooding events” occur, whereby the North Icelandic Irminger Current (NIIC) propagates offshore and advects subtropical-origin water northward through the deepest part of the sill. Two other types of mesoscale processes in Denmark Strait have been described previously in the literature, known as “boluses” and “pulses,” associated with a raising and lowering of the overflow water interface. Our measurements reveal that flooding events occur in conjunction with especially pronounced pulses. The model indicates that the NIIC hydrographic front is maintained by a balance between frontogenesis by the large-scale flow and frontolysis by baroclinic instability. Specifically, the temperature and salinity tendency equations demonstrate that the eddies act to relax the front, while the mean flow acts to sharpen it. Furthermore, the model reveals that the two dense water processes—boluses and pulses (and hence flooding events)—are dynamically related to each other and tied to the meandering of the hydrographic front in the strait. Our study thus provides a general framework for interpreting the short-time-scale variability of Denmark Strait Overflow Water entering the Irminger Sea.

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