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Title: Kinematic Structure and Dynamics of the Denmark Strait Overflow
The dense outflow through Denmark Strait is the largest contributor to the lower limb of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation. While its hydrographic structure is well documented, a full description of the velocity field across the strait remains incomplete. Here we analyze a set of 22 shipboard hydrographic and 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). We deconstruct the dense overflow in terms of water mass constituents and flow components, demonstrating that the combined EGC branches and NIJ transport comparable amounts. A strong cyclonic structure was present in two-thirds of the occupations, which is thought to be due to the combined effect of eddies and wind. Strong negative wind stress curl north of the strait intensifies the separated EGC, while the enhanced northerly winds under these conditions strengthen the NIIC and cause it to shift the west. Both the cyclonic and non-cyclonic flow states can be super-critical in different parts of the strait, leading to symmetric instability and enhanced mixing. A proxy is used to assess this condition in a larger set of shipboard crossings with hydrography only, elucidating the degree to which mesoscale features drive such mixing.  more » « less
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Ocean science
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National Science Foundation
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  1. 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. 
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  2. Abstract

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