skip to main content

Title: Cyclonic eddies in the West Greenland Boundary Current System
Abstract The boundary current system in the Labrador Sea plays an integral role in modulating convection in the interior basin. Four years of mooring data from the eastern Labrador Sea reveal persistent mesoscale variability in the West Greenland boundary current. Between 2014 and 2018, 197 mid-depth intensified cyclones were identified that passed the array near the 2000 m isobath. In this study, we quantify these features and show that they are the downstream manifestation of Denmark Strait Overflow Water (DSOW) cyclones. A composite cyclone is constructed revealing an average radius of 9 km, maximum azimuthal speed of 24 cm/s, and a core propagation velocity of 27 cm/s. The core propagation velocity is significantly smaller than upstream near Denmark Strait, allowing them to trap more water. The cyclones transport a 200-m thick lens of dense water at the bottom of the water column, and increase the transport of DSOW in the West Greenland boundary current by 17% relative to the background flow. Only a portion of the features generated at Denmark Strait make it to the Labrador Sea, implying that the remainder are shed into the interior Irminger Sea, are retroflected at Cape Farewell, or dissipate. A synoptic shipboard survey east more » of Cape Farewell, conducted in summer 2020, captured two of these features which shed further light on their structure and timing. This is the first time DSOW cyclones have been observed in the Labrador Sea—a discovery that could have important implications for interior stratification. « less
Authors:
; ; ; ; ;
Award ID(s):
1822334 1558742 1948505 1756272 1756361 2038481
Publication Date:
NSF-PAR ID:
10285457
Journal Name:
Journal of Physical Oceanography
ISSN:
0022-3670
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Abstract Recent mooring measurements from the Overturning in the Subpolar North Atlantic Program have revealed abundant cyclonic eddies at both sides of Cape Farewell, the southern tip of Greenland. In this study, we present further observational evidence, from both Eulerian and Lagrangian perspectives, of deep cyclonic eddies with intense rotation ( 𝜁 / f > 1) around southern Greenland and into the Labrador Sea. Most of the observed cyclones exhibit strongest rotation below the surface (700-1000 dbar), where maximum azimuthal velocities are ~30 cm/s at radii of ~10 km, with rotational periods of 2-3 days. The cyclonic rotation can extend to the deep overflow water layer (below 1800 dbar), albeit with weaker azimuthal velocities (~10 cm/s) and longer rotational periods of about one week. Within the mid-depth rotation cores, the cyclones are in near solid-body rotation and have the potential to trap and transport water. The first high-resolution hydrographic transect across such a cyclone indicates that it is characterized by a local (both vertically and horizontally) potential vorticity maximum in its core and cold, fresh anomalies in the overflow water layer, suggesting its source as the Denmark Strait outflow. Additionally, the propagation and evolution of the cyclonic eddies are illustratedmore »with deep Lagrangian floats, including their detachments from the boundary currents to the basin interior. Taken together, the combined Eulerian and Lagrangian observations have provided new insights on the boundary current variability and boundary-interior exchange over a geographically large scale near southern Greenland, calling for further investigations on the (sub)mesoscale dynamics in the region.« less
  2. 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 ≡ 10 6 m 3 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 ofmore »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.« less
  3. 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%more »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.« less
  4. Abstract The Gulf Stream affects global climate by transporting water and heat poleward. The current’s volume transport increases markedly along the U.S. East Coast. An extensive observing program using autonomous underwater gliders provides finescale, subsurface observations of hydrography and velocity spanning more than 15° of latitude along the path of the Gulf Stream, thereby filling a 1500-km-long gap between long-term transport measurements in the Florida Strait and downstream of Cape Hatteras. Here, the glider-based observations are combined with shipboard measurements along Line W near 68°W to provide a detailed picture of the along-stream transport increase. To account for the influences of Gulf Stream curvature and adjacent circulation (e.g., corotating eddies) on transport estimates, upper- and lower-bound transports are constructed for each cross–Gulf Stream transect. The upper-bound estimate for time-averaged volume transport above 1000 m is 32.9 ± 1.2 Sv (1 Sv ≡ 106 m3 s−1) in the Florida Strait, 57.3 ± 1.9 Sv at Cape Hatteras, and 75.6 ± 4.7 Sv at Line W. Corresponding lower-bound estimates are 32.3 ± 1.1 Sv in the Florida Strait, 54.5 ± 1.7 Sv at Cape Hatteras, and 69.9 ± 4.2 Sv at Line W. Using the temperature and salinity observations from gliders andmore »Line W, waters are divided into seven classes to investigate the properties of waters that are transported by and entrained into the Gulf Stream. Most of the increase in overall Gulf Stream volume transport above 1000 m stems from the entrainment of subthermocline waters, including upper Labrador Sea Water and Eighteen Degree Water.« less
  5. Export from the Arctic and meltwater from the Greenland Ice Sheet together form a southward-flowing coastal current along the East Greenland shelf. This current transports enough fresh water to substantially alter the large-scale circulation of the North Atlantic, yet the coastal current’s origin and fate are poorly known due to our lack of knowledge concerning its north-south connectivity. Here, we demonstrate how the current negotiates the complex topography of Denmark Strait using in situ data and output from an ocean circulation model. We determine that the coastal current north of the strait supplies half of the transport to the coastal current south of the strait, while the other half is sourced from offshore via the shelfbreak jet, with little input from the Greenland Ice Sheet. These results indicate that there is a continuous pathway for Arctic-sourced fresh water along the entire East Greenland shelf from Fram Strait to Cape Farewell.