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  1. Abstract

    Barrow Canyon in the northeast Chukchi Sea is a critical choke point where Pacific‐origin water, heat, and nutrients enter the interior Arctic. While the flow through the canyon has been monitored for more than 20 years, questions remain regarding the dynamics by which the Pacific‐origin water is fluxed offshore, as well as what drives the variability. In 2018, two high‐resolution shipboard surveys of the canyon were carried out—one in summer and one in fall—to investigate the water mass distribution and velocity structure of the outflow. During the summer survey, high percentages of Pacific water (summer water + winter water) were present seaward of the canyon, associated with strong northward outflow from the canyon and a well‐developed westward‐flowing Chukchi Slope Current (CSC). By contrast, high percentages of Pacific water were confined to the canyon proper and outer Chukchi shelf during the late‐fall survey, at which time the canyon outflow and CSC were considerably weaker. These differences can be attributed to differences in wind forcing during the time period of two surveys. A cyclone‐like circulation was present in the canyon during both surveys, which was also evident in the satellite‐derived sea surface height anomaly field. We argue that this feature corresponds to an arrested topographic Rossby wave, generated as the outflow responds to the deepening bathymetry of the canyon. By applying a self‐organizing map analysis using the satellite altimeter data from 2001 to 2020, we demonstrate that such a cyclone‐like structure is a prevailing aspect of the canyon outflow.

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  2. Abstract

    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.

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  3. Abstract

    Overflow water from the Nordic Seas comprises the deepest limb of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation, yet questions remain as to where it is ventilated and how it reaches the Greenland-Scotland Ridge. Here we use historical hydrographic data from 2005-2015, together with satellite altimeter data, to elucidate the source regions of the Denmark Strait and Faroe Bank Channel overflows and the pathways feeding these respective sills. A recently-developed metric is used to calculate how similar two water parcels are, based on potential density and potential spicity. This reveals that the interior of the Greenland Sea gyre is the primary wintertime source of the densest portion of both overflows. After subducting, the water progresses southward along several ridge systems towards the Greenland-Scotland Ridge. Kinematic evidence supports the inferred pathways. Extending the calculation back to the 1980s reveals that the ventilation occurred previously along the periphery of the Greenland Sea gyre.

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  4. Abstract

    Iceland-Scotland Overflow Water (ISOW) is a primary deep water mass exported from the Norwegian Sea into the North Atlantic as part of the global Meridional Overturning Circulation. ISOW has historically been depicted as flowing counter-clockwise in a deep boundary current around the subpolar North Atlantic, but this single-boundary-following pathway is being challenged by new Lagrangian observations and model simulations. We show here that ISOW leaves the boundary and spreads into the interior towards the central Labrador and Irminger basins after flowing through the Charlie-Gibbs Fracture Zone. We also describe a newly observed southward pathway of ISOW along the western flank of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. The partitioning of these pathways is shown to be influenced by deep-reaching eddies and meanders of the North Atlantic Current. Our results, in tandem with previous studies, call for a revision in the historical depiction of ISOW pathways throughout the North Atlantic.

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  5. Abstract

    Synoptic shipboard measurements, together with historical hydrographic data and satellite data, are used to elucidate the detailed structure of the Atlantic Water (AW) boundary current system in the southern Canada Basin and its connection to the upstream source of AW in the Chukchi Borderland. Nine high‐resolution occupations of a transect extending from the Beaufort shelf to the deep basin near 152°W, taken between 2003 and 2018, reveal that there are two branches of the AW boundary current that flow beneath and counter to the Beaufort Gyre. Each branch corresponds to a warm temperature core and transports comparable amounts of Fram Strait Branch Water between roughly 200–700 m depth, although they are characterized by a different temperature/salinity (T/S) structure. The mean volume flux of the combined branches is 0.87 ± 0.13 Sv. Using the historical hydrographic data, the two branches are tracked upstream by their temperature cores andT/Ssignatures. This sheds new light on how the AW negotiates the Chukchi Borderland and why two branches emerge from this region. Lastly, the propagation of warm temperature anomalies through the region is quantified and shown to be consistent with the deduced circulation scheme.

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  6. Abstract

    Mesoscale features present at the Denmark Strait sill regularly enhance the volume transport of the Denmark Strait overflow (DSO). They are important for the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation and ultimately, for the global climate system. Using a realistic numerical model, we find new evidence of the causal relationship between overflow surges (i.e., mesoscale features associated with high‐transport events) and DSO cyclones observed downstream. Most of the cyclones form at the Denmark Strait sill during overflow surges and, because of potential vorticity conservation and stretching of the water column, grow as they move equatorward. A fraction of the cyclones form downstream of the sill, when anticyclonic vortices formed during high‐transport events start collapsing. Regardless of their formation mechanism, DSO cyclones weaken starting roughly 150 km downstream of the sill, and potential vorticity is only materially conserved during the growth phase.

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  7. Abstract

    Data from repeat hydrographic surveys over the 25‐year period 1993 to 2017, together with satellite altimetry data, are used to quantify the temporal and spatial variability of the North Icelandic Irminger Current (NIIC), East Icelandic Current (EIC), and the water masses they advect around northern Iceland. We focus on the warm, salty Atlantic Water (AW) flowing northward through Denmark Strait and the cooler, fresher, denser Atlantic‐origin Overflow Water (AtOW) which has circulated cyclonically around the rim of the Nordic Seas before being advected to the Iceland slope via the EIC. The absolute geostrophic velocities reveal that approximately half of the NIIC recirculates just north of Denmark Strait, while the remaining half merges with the EIC to form a single current that extends to the northeast of Iceland, with no further loss in transport of either component. The AW percentage decreases by 75% over this distance, while the AtOW percentage is higher than that of the AW in the merged current. The NIIC and merged NIIC‐EIC are found to be baroclinically unstable, which causes the flow to become increasingly barotropic as it progresses around Iceland. A seasonal accounting of the water masses within the currents indicates that only in springtime is the NIIC dominated by AW inflow north of Denmark Strait. Overall, there is considerably more seasonal and along‐stream variability in the properties of the flow prior to the merging of the NIIC and EIC. Over the 25‐year time period, the NIIC became warmer, saltier, and increased in volume transport.

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  8. Abstract The warm-to-cold densification of Atlantic Water (AW) around the perimeter of the Nordic Seas is a critical component of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC). However, it remains unclear how ongoing changes in air-sea heat flux impact this transformation. Here we use observational data, and a one-dimensional mixing model following the flow, to investigate the role of air-sea heat flux on the cooling of AW. We focus on the Norwegian Atlantic Slope Current (NwASC) and Front Current (NwAFC), where the primary transformation of AW occurs. We find that air-sea heat flux accounts almost entirely for the net cooling of AW along the NwAFC, while oceanic lateral heat transfer appears to dominate the temperature change along the NwASC. Such differing impacts of air-sea interaction, which explain the contrasting long-term changes in the net cooling along two AW branches since the 1990s, need to be considered when understanding the AMOC variability. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available December 1, 2024
  9. Abstract Water mass transformation in the Nordic and Barents Seas, triggered by air-sea heat fluxes, is an integral component of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC). These regions are undergoing rapid warming, associated with a retreat in ice cover. Here we present an analysis covering 1950−2020 of the spatiotemporal variability of the air-sea heat fluxes along the region’s boundary currents, where water mass transformation impacts are large. We find there is an increase in the air-sea heat fluxes along these currents that is a function of the currents’ orientation relative to the axis of sea-ice change suggesting enhanced water mass transformation is occurring. Previous work has shown a reduction in heat fluxes in the interior of the Nordic Seas. As a result, a reorganization seems to be underway in where water mass transformation occurs, that needs to be considered when ascertaining how the AMOC will respond to a warming climate. 
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