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  1. Abstract

    As they rim the basin from the southern tip of Greenland to the southern Labrador coast, the waters in the Labrador Sea boundary current undergo a significant transformation in salinity and temperature, but much less so in density. Motivated by these observations, a previously developed simple three-layer model is adapted to understand the processes responsible for this density-compensated overturning in the Labrador Sea. From our model simulations, we find that the density-compensating water mass transformation in the boundary current can be largely attributed to the combined effect of 1) direct atmospheric cooling of the relatively warm boundary current and 2) freshening due to mixing with the shallower and fresh waters derived from Greenland meltwater discharge and Arctic Ocean inflow. Freshening of the boundary current waters due to the excess of precipitation over evaporation in the basin has an important, but less impactful, role in the density compensation. Studies examining the sensitivity of the density compensation to the freshwater entry location reveal a larger impact when the freshwater enters the boundary current on the Greenland side of the basin, compared to the Labrador side. These results yield insights into how increasing meltwater in the subpolar North Atlantic will affect the overturning.

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  2. A well-known exception to rising sea surface temperatures (SST) across the globe is the subpolar North Atlantic, where SST has been declining at a rate of 0.39 (± 0.23) K century−1 during the 1900–2017 period. This cold blob has been hypothesized to result from a slowdown of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC). Here, observation-based evidence is used to suggest that local atmospheric forcing can also contribute to the century-long cooling trend. Specifically, a 100-year SST trend simulated by an idealized ocean model forced by historical atmospheric forcing over the cold blob region matches 92% (± 77%) of the observed cooling trend. The data-driven simulations suggest that 54% (± 77%) of the observed cooling trend is the direct result of increased heat loss from the ocean induced by the overlying atmosphere, while the remaining 38% is due to strengthened local convection. An analysis of surface wind eddy kinetic energy suggests that the atmosphere-induced cooling may be linked to a northward migration of the jet stream, which exposes the subpolar North Atlantic to intensified storminess. 
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  3. Abstract

    Understanding the variability of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation is essential for better predictions of our changing climate. Here we present an updated time series (August 2014 to June 2020) from the Overturning in the Subpolar North Atlantic Program. The 6-year time series allows us to observe the seasonality of the subpolar overturning and meridional heat and freshwater transports. The overturning peaks in late spring and reaches a minimum in early winter, with a peak-to-trough range of 9.0 Sv. The overturning seasonal timing can be explained by winter transformation and the export of dense water, modulated by a seasonally varying Ekman transport. Furthermore, over 55% of the total meridional freshwater transport variability can be explained by its seasonality, largely owing to overturning dynamics. Our results provide the first observational analysis of seasonality in the subpolar North Atlantic overturning and highlight its important contribution to the total overturning variability observed to date.

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    Abstract Fresh Arctic waters flowing into the Atlantic are thought to have two primary fates. They may be mixed into the deep ocean as part of the overturning circulation, or flow alongside regions of deep water formation without impacting overturning. Climate models suggest that as increasing amounts of freshwater enter the Atlantic, the overturning circulation will be disrupted, yet we lack an understanding of how much freshwater is mixed into the overturning circulation’s deep limb in the present day. To constrain these freshwater pathways, we build steady-state volume, salt, and heat budgets east of Greenland that are initialized with observations and closed using inverse methods. Freshwater sources are split into oceanic Polar Waters from the Arctic and surface freshwater fluxes, which include net precipitation, runoff, and ice melt, to examine how they imprint the circulation differently. We find that 65 mSv (1 Sv ≡ 10 6 m 3 s −1 ) of the total 110 mSv of surface freshwater fluxes that enter our domain participate in the overturning circulation, as do 0.6 Sv of the total 1.2 Sv of Polar Waters that flow through Fram Strait. Based on these results, we hypothesize that the overturning circulation is more sensitive to future changes in Arctic freshwater outflow and precipitation, while Greenland runoff and iceberg melt are more likely to stay along the coast of Greenland. 
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  6. Abstract The latitudinal structure of the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC) variability in the North Atlantic is investigated using numerical results from three ocean circulation simulations over the past four to five decades. We show that AMOC variability south of the Labrador Sea (53°N) to 25°N can be decomposed into a latitudinally coherent component and a gyre-opposing component. The latitudinally coherent component contains both decadal and interannual variabilities. The coherent decadal AMOC variability originates in the subpolar region and is reflected by the zonal density gradient in that basin. It is further shown to be linked to persistent North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) conditions in all three models. The interannual AMOC variability contained in the latitudinally coherent component is shown to be driven by westerlies in the transition region between the subpolar and the subtropical gyre (40°–50°N), through significant responses in Ekman transport. Finally, the gyre-opposing component principally varies on interannual time scales and responds to local wind variability related to the annual NAO. The contribution of these components to the total AMOC variability is latitude-dependent: 1) in the subpolar region, all models show that the latitudinally coherent component dominates AMOC variability on interannual to decadal time scales, with little contribution from the gyre-opposing component, and 2) in the subtropical region, the gyre-opposing component explains a majority of the interannual AMOC variability in two models, while in the other model, the contributions from the coherent and the gyre-opposing components are comparable. These results provide a quantitative decomposition of AMOC variability across latitudes and shed light on the linkage between different AMOC variability components and atmospheric forcing mechanisms. 
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