Buoyancy forcing and the subpolar Atlantic meridional overturning circulation

Buckley, Martha W.; Lozier, M. Susan; Desbruyères, Damien; Evans, Dafydd Gwyn ORCID: 2023 Buoyancy forcing and the subpolar Atlantic meridional overturning circulation. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences, 381 (2262).

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The North Atlantic meridional overturning circulation and its variability are examined in terms of the overturning in density space and diapycnal water mass transformation. The magnitude of the mean overturning is similar to the surface water mass transformation, but the density and properties of these waters are modified by diapycnal mixing. Surface waters are progressively densified while circulating cyclonically around the subpolar gyre, with the densest waters and deepest convection occurring in the Labrador Sea and Nordic Seas. The eddy-driven interaction between the convective interior and boundary currents is a key to the export of dense waters from marginal seas. Due to the multitude of pathways of dense waters within the subpolar gyre, as well as mixing with older waters, waters exiting the subpolar gyre have a wide range of ages, with a mean age on the order of a decade. As a result, interannual changes in water mass transformation are mostly balanced locally and do not result in changes in export to the subtropics. Only persistent changes in water mass transformation result in changes in export to the subtropics. The dilution of signals from upstream water mass transformation suggests that variability in export of dense waters to the subtropics may be controlled by other processes, including interaction of dense waters with the energetic upper ocean. This article is part of a discussion meeting issue ‘Atlantic overturning: new observations and challenges’.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
ISSN: 1364-503X
Additional Keywords: Atlantic meridional overturning circulation, buoyancy forcing, water mass transformation
Date made live: 22 Nov 2023 22:18 +0 (UTC)

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