Three-dimensional observations of a deep convective chimney in the Greenland sea during Winter 1988/89

Morawitz, WML, Sutton PJ, Worcester PF, Cornuelle BD, Lynch JF, Pawlowicz R.  1996.  Three-dimensional observations of a deep convective chimney in the Greenland sea during Winter 1988/89. Journal of Physical Oceanography. 26:2316-2343.

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circulation, evolution, ice, mixed-layer, norwegian seas, processes, scale, upper ocean, variability, ventilation, water formation


All available temperature data, including moored thermistor. hydrographic, and tomographic measurements, have been combined using least-squares inverse methods to study the evolution of the three-dimensional temperature field in the Greenland Sea during winter 1988/89. The data are adequate to resolve features with spatial scares of about 40 km and larger. A chimney structure reaching depths in excess of 1000 m is observed to the southwest of the gyre center during March 1989. The chimney has a spatial scale of about 50 km, near the limit of the spatial resolution of the data, and a timescale of about 10 days, The chimney structure breaks up and disappears in only 3-6 days. A one-dimensional vertical heat balance adequately describes changes in total heat content in the chimney region from autumn 1988 until the time of chimney breakup, when horizontal advection becomes important. A simple one-dimensional mixed layer model is surprisingly successful in reproducing autumn to winter bulk temperature and salinity changes, as well as the observed evolution of the mixed layer to depths in excess of 1000 m. Uncertainties in surface freshwater fluxes make it difficult to determine whether net evaporation minus precipitation, or ice advection, is responsible for the observed depth-averaged salinity increase from autumn to winter in the chimney region. Rough estimates of the potential energy balance In the mixed laver suggest that potential energy changes are reasonably consistent with turbulent kinetic energy (TKE) production terms. Initially the TKE term parameterizing wind forcing and shear production is important, but as the mixed layer deepens the surface buoyancy production term dominates. The estimated average annual deep-water production rate in the Greenland Sea for 1988/89 is about 0.1 Sverdrups, comparable to production rates during the 1980s and early 1990s derived from tracer measurements. The location of the deep convection observed appears to be sensitively linked to the amount of Arctic Intermediate Water (AIW) present from autumn through spring. Although AIW is an important source of salt for the surface waters, too much AIW overstratifies the water column, preventing deep convection from occurring.