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- Ocean science
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- National Science Foundation
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null (Ed.)Abstract The dense outflow through Denmark Strait is the largest contributor to the lower limb of the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation, yet a description of the full velocity field across the strait remains incomplete. Here we analyze a set of 22 shipboard hydrographic–velocity sections occupied along the Látrabjarg transect at the Denmark Strait sill, obtained over the time period 1993–2018. The sections provide the first complete view of the kinematic components at the sill: the shelfbreak East Greenland Current (EGC), the combined flow of the separated EGC, and the North Icelandic Jet (NIJ), and the northward-flowing North Icelandic Irminger Current (NIIC). The total mean transport of overflow water is 3.54 ± 0.29 Sv (1 Sv ≡ 10 6 m 3 s −1 ), comparable to previous estimates. The dense overflow is partitioned in terms of water mass constituents and flow components. The mean transports of the two types of overflow water—Atlantic-origin Overflow Water and Arctic-origin Overflow Water—are comparable in Denmark Strait, while the merged NIJ–separated EGC transports 55% more water than the shelfbreak EGC. A significant degree of water mass exchange takes place between the branches as they converge in Denmark Strait. There are two dominant time-varying configurations of the flow that are characterized as a cyclonic state and a noncyclonic state. These appear to be wind-driven. A potential vorticity analysis indicates that the flow through Denmark Strait is subject to symmetric instability. This occurs at the top of the overflow layer, implying that the mixing/entrainment process that modifies the overflow water begins at the sill.more » « less
The North Icelandic Irminger Current (NIIC) flowing northward through Denmark Strait is the main source of salt and heat to the north Iceland shelf. We quantify its along‐stream evolution using the first high‐resolution hydrographic/velocity survey north of Iceland that spans the entire shelf along with historical hydrographic measurements as well as data from satellites and surface drifters. The NIIC generally follows the shelf break. Portions of the flow recirculate near Denmark Strait and the Kolbeinsey Ridge. The current's volume transport diminishes northeast of Iceland before it merges with the Atlantic Water inflow east of Iceland. The hydrographic properties of the current are modified along its entire pathway, predominantly because of lateral mixing with cold, fresh offshore waters rather than air‐sea interaction. Progressing eastward, the NIIC cools and freshens by approximately 0.3°C and 0.02–0.03 g kg−1per 100 km, respectively, in both summer and winter. Dense‐water formation on the shelf is limited, occurring only sporadically in the historical record. The hydrographic properties of this locally formed water match the lighter portion of the North Icelandic Jet (NIJ), which emerges northeast of Iceland and transports dense water toward Denmark Strait. In the region northeast of Iceland, the NIIC is prone to baroclinic instability. Enhanced eddy kinetic energy over the steep slope there suggests a dynamical link between eddies shed by the NIIC and the formation of the NIJ as previously hypothesized. Thus, while the NIIC rarely supplies the NIJ directly, it may be dynamically important for the overturning circulation in the Nordic Seas.
The North Icelandic Jet (NIJ) is an important source of dense water to the overflow plume passing through Denmark Strait. The properties, structure, and transport of the NIJ are investigated for the first time along its entire pathway following the continental slope north of Iceland, using 13 hydrographic/velocity surveys of high spatial resolution conducted between 2004 and 2018. The comprehensive dataset reveals that the current originates northeast of Iceland and increases in volume transport by roughly 0.4 Sv (1 Sv ≡ 10 6 m 3 s −1 ) per 100 km until 300 km upstream of Denmark Strait, at which point the highest transport is reached. The bulk of the NIJ transport is confined to a small area in Θ– S space centered near −0.29° ± 0.16°C in Conservative Temperature and 35.075 ± 0.006 g kg −1 in Absolute Salinity. While the hydrographic properties of this transport mode are not significantly modified along the NIJ’s pathway, the transport estimates vary considerably between and within the surveys. Neither a clear seasonal signal nor a consistent link to atmospheric forcing was found, but barotropic and/or baroclinic instability is likely active in the current. The NIJ displays a double-core structure in roughly 50% of the occupations, with the two cores centered at the 600- and 800-m isobaths, respectively. The transport of overflow water 300 km upstream of Denmark Strait exceeds 1.8 ± 0.3 Sv, which is substantially larger than estimates from a year-long mooring array and hydrographic/velocity surveys closer to the strait, where the NIJ merges with the separated East Greenland Current. This implies a more substantial contribution of the NIJ to the Denmark Strait overflow plume than previously envisaged.more » « less
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.
We describe the high-frequency variability in the North Icelandic Jet (NIJ) on the Iceland Slope using data from the densely instrumented Kögur mooring array deployed upstream of the Denmark Strait sill from September 2011 to July 2012. Significant sub-8-day variability is ubiquitous in all moorings from the Iceland slope with a dominant period of 3.6 days. We attribute this variability to topographic Rossby waves on the Iceland slope with a wavelength of 62 ± 3 km and a phase velocity of 17.3 ± 0.8 km/day−1 directed downslope (−9◦ relative to true-north). We test the theoretical dispersion relation for these waves against our observations and find good agreement between the predicted and measured direction of phase propagation. We additionally calculate a theoretical group velocity of 36 km day−1 directed almost directly up-slope (106◦ relative to true-north) that agrees well with the propagation speed and direction of observed energy pulses. We use an inverse wave tracing model to show that this wave energy is generated locally, offshore of the array, and does not emanate from the upstream or downstream directions along the Iceland slope. It is hypothesized that either the meandering Separated East Greenland Current located seaward of the NIJ or intermittent aspiration of dense water into the Denmark Strait Overflow are the drivers of the topographic waves.more » « less