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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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Renske Gelderloos, Caroline A. Katsman, and Sybren S. Drijfhout

Abstract

Restratification after deep convection is one of the key factors in determining the temporal variability of dense water formation in the Labrador Sea. In the subsurface, it is primarily governed by lateral buoyancy fluxes during early spring. The roles of three different eddy types in this process are assessed using an idealized model of the Labrador Sea that simulates the restratification season. The first eddy type, warm-core Irminger rings, is shed from the boundary current along the west coast of Greenland. All along the coastline, the boundary current forms boundary current eddies. The third type, convective eddies, arises directly around the convection area. In the model, the latter two eddy types are together responsible for replenishing 30% of the winter heat loss within 6 months. Irminger rings add another 45% to this number. The authors’ results thus confirm that the presence of Irminger rings is essential for a realistic amount of restratification in this area. The model results are compared to observations using theoretical estimates of restratification time scales derived for the three eddy types. The time scales are also used to explain contradicting conclusions in previous studies on their respective roles.

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Jessica S. Kenigson, Renske Gelderloos, and Georgy E. Manucharyan

Abstract

Theories of the Beaufort Gyre (BG) dynamics commonly represent the halocline as a single layer with a thickness depending on the Eulerian-mean and eddy-induced overturning. However, observations suggest that the isopycnal slope increases with depth, and a theory to explain this profile remains outstanding. Here we develop a multilayer model of the BG, including the Eulerian-mean velocity, mesoscale eddy activity, diapycnal mixing, and lateral boundary fluxes, and use it to investigate the dynamics within the Pacific Winter Water (PWW) layer. Using theoretical considerations, observational data, and idealized simulations, we demonstrate that the eddy overturning is critical in explaining the observed vertical structure. In the absence of the eddy overturning, the Ekman pumping and the relatively weak vertical mixing would displace isopycnals in a nearly parallel fashion, contrary to observations. This study finds that the observed increase of the isopycnal slope with depth in the climatological state of the gyre is consistent with a Gent–McWilliams eddy diffusivity coefficient that decreases by at least 10%–40% over the PWW layer. We further show that the depth-dependent eddy diffusivity profile can explain the relative magnitude of the correlated isopycnal depth and layer thickness fluctuations on interannual time scales. Our inference that the eddy overturning generates the isopycnal layer thickness gradients is consistent with the parameterization of eddies via a Gent–McWilliams scheme but not potential vorticity diffusion. This study implies that using a depth-independent eddy diffusivity, as is commonly done in low-resolution ocean models, may contribute to misrepresentation of the interior BG dynamics.

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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.

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Atousa Saberi, Thomas W. N. Haine, Renske Gelderloos, M. Femke de Jong, Heather Furey, and Amy Bower

Abstract

The Denmark Strait Overflow (DSO) is an important contributor to the lower limb of the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC). Determining DSO formation and its pathways is not only important for local oceanography but also critical to estimating the state and variability of the AMOC. Despite prior attempts to understand the DSO sources, its upstream pathways and circulation remain uncertain due to short-term (3–5 days) variability. This makes it challenging to study the DSO from observations. Given this complexity, this study maps the upstream pathways and along-pathway changes in its water properties, using Lagrangian backtracking of the DSO sources in a realistic numerical ocean simulation. The Lagrangian pathways confirm that several branches contribute to the DSO from the north such as the East Greenland Current (EGC), the separated EGC (sEGC), and the North Icelandic Jet (NIJ). Moreover, the model results reveal additional pathways from south of Iceland, which supplied over 16% of the DSO annually and over 25% of the DSO during winter of 2008, when the NAO index was positive. The southern contribution is about 34% by the end of March. The southern pathways mark a more direct route from the near-surface subpolar North Atlantic to the North Atlantic Deep Water (NADW), and needs to be explored further, with in situ observations.

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Renske Gelderloos, Thomas W. N. Haine, Inga M. Koszalka, and Marcello G. Magaldi

Abstract

Seasonal variability in pathways of warm-water masses toward the Kangerdlugssuaq Fjord (KF)–Glacier (KG) system, southeast Greenland, is investigated by backtracking Lagrangian particles seeded at the fjord mouth in a high-resolution regional ocean model simulation in the ice-free and the ice-covered seasons. The waters at KF are a mixture of Atlantic-origin water advected from the Irminger Basin [Faxaflói (FF)], the deep waters from the Denmark Strait, and the waters from the Arctic Ocean, both represented by the Kögur section (KO). Below 200-m depth, the warm water is a mixture of FF and KO water masses and is warmer in winter than in summer. The authors find that seasonal differences in pathways double the fraction of FF particles in winter, causing the seasonal warming and salinification. Seasonal temperature variations at the upstream sections (FF and KO) have a negligible impact on temperature variations near the fjord. Successful monitoring of heat flux to the fjord therefore needs to take place close to the fjord and cannot be inferred from upstream conditions.

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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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