New Estimate of Boundary Current Transport

Hopkins et al., 23 April 2019

Hopkins et al., 2019 use data from the OOI Irminger Sea flanking moorings to create the longest continuous record to date of Deep Western Boundary Current (DWBC) volume transport in the region. This study, part of the Overturning in the Subpolar North Atlantic Program (OSNAP), used data from two OOI flanking moorings, along with three U.S. OSNAP moorings, and five U.K. OSNAP moorings to determine the 22-month mean DWBC volume transport, and its spatial structure off Greenland (Figure above).

Determining DWBC properties is critical to understanding the transport of heat, salt, nutrients, and carbon by the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), part of a system of currents that form the global thermohaline circulation. The combined OSNAP/OOI mooring array deployed at 60°N in the Irminger Sea during 2014 – 2015 provides the longest continuous record of DWBC volume transport at this latitude. This enables not only the most reliable estimate available of the mean transport, but the ability to investigate temporal variability.

Several key points are made by the authors. First, the average volume transport of deep water was 10.8 ± 4.9 Sv (mean ± 1 std) to the south. Of the total transport, North East Atlantic Deep Water accounted for about 6.5 Sv while about 4.1 Sv was associated with the Denmark Strait Overflow. Second, the long record allows the first systematic investigation of DWBC variability. The observed transport shows a shift from high to low frequency fluctuations with increasing distance from the East Greenland coast. High‐frequency fluctuations (2–8 days) dominate close to the continental slope, likely associated with topographic Rossby waves and/or cyclonic eddies. In deeper water, transport variance at 55 days dominates. Finally, the results indicate a modest (1.8 Sv) increase in total transport since 2005–2006, but this difference can be accounted for by a range of methodological and data limitation biases. This is of interest because although AMOC variability related to climate change is expected to be reflected in DWBC transport and properties, conclusive observational evidence of transport change has been elusive.