Freshwater transport estimates and the global overturning circulation: Shallow, deep and throughflow components

Citation:
Talley, LD.  2008.  Freshwater transport estimates and the global overturning circulation: Shallow, deep and throughflow components. Progress in Oceanography. 78:257-303.

Date Published:

Sep

Keywords:

circumpolar current, freshwater, Global circulation, heat-transport, indian-ocean, intermediate water, layer salinity budget, north-atlantic ocean, pacific, salinity, southern-hemisphere winds, thermohaline circulation, total geostrophic circulation, transport, water masses, world ocean

Abstract:

Meridional ocean freshwater transports and convergences are calculated from absolute geostrophic velocities and Ekman transports. The freshwater transports are analyzed in terms of mass-balanced contributions from the shallow, ventilated circulation of the subtropical gyres, intermediate and deep water overturns, and Indonesian Throughflow and Bering Strait components. The following are the major conclusions: 1. Excess freshwater in high latitudes must be transported to the evaporative lower latitudes, as is well known. The calculations here show that the northern hemisphere transports most of its high latitude freshwater equatorward through North Atlantic Deep Water (NADW) formation (as in [Rahmstorf, S., 1996. On the freshwater forcing and transport of the Atlantic thermohaline circulation. Climate Dynamics 12, 799-811]), in which saline subtropical surface waters absorb the freshened Arctic and subpolar North Atlantic surface waters (0.45 +/- 0.15 Sv for a 15 Sv overturn), plus a small contribution from the high latitude North Pacific through Bering Strait (0.06 +/- 0.02 Sv). In the North Pacific, formation of 2.4 Sv of North Pacific Intermediate Water (NPIW) transports 0.07 +/- 0.02 Sv of freshwater equatorward. In complete contrast, almost all of the 0.61 +/- 0.13 Sv of freshwater gained in the Southern Ocean is transported equatorward in the upper ocean, in roughly equal magnitudes of about 0.2 Sv each in the three subtropical gyres, with a smaller contribution of <0. 1 Sv from the Indonesian Throughflow loop through the Southern Ocean. The large Southern Ocean deep water formation (27 Sv) exports almost no freshwater (0.01 +/- 0.03 Sv) or actually imports freshwater if deep overturns in each ocean are considered separately (-0.06 +/- 0.04 Sv). This northern-southern hemisphere asymmetry is likely a consequence of the "Drake Passage" effect, which limits the southward transport of warm, saline surface waters into the Antarctic [Toggweiler, J.R., Samuels, B., 1995a. Effect of Drake Passage on the global thermohaline circulation. Deep-Sea Research 1 42(4), 477-500]. The salinity contrast between the deep Atlantic, Pacific and Indian source waters and the denser new Antarctic waters is limited by their small temperature contrast, resulting in small freshwater transports. No such constraint applies to NADW formation, which draws on warm, saline subtropical surface waters. 2. The Atlantic/Arctic and Indian Oceans are net evaporative basins, hence import freshwater via ocean circulation. For the Atlantic/Arctic north of 32 degrees S, freshwater import (0.28 +/- 0.04 Sv) comes from the Pacific through Bering Strait (0.06 0.02 Sv), from the Southern Ocean via the shallow gyre circulation (0.20 +/- 0.02 Sv), and from three nearly canceling conversions to the NADW layer (0.02 0.02 Sv): from saline Benguela Current surface water (-0.05 +/- 0.01 Sv), fresh AAIW (0.06 0.01 Sv) and fresh AABW/LCDW (0.01 0.01 Sv). Thus, the NADW freshwater balance is nearly closed within the Atlantic/Arctic Ocean and the freshwater transport associated with export of NADW to the Southern Ocean is only a small component of the Atlantic freshwater budget. For the Indian Ocean north of 32 degrees S, import of the required 0.37 +/- 0.10 Sv of freshwater comes from the Pacific through the Indonesian Throughflow (0.23 +/- 0.05 Sv) and the Southern Ocean via the shallow gyre circulation (0.18 +/- 0.02 Sv), with a small export southward due to freshening of bottom waters as they upwell into deep and intermediate waters (-0.04 +/- 0.03 Sv). The Pacific north of 28 degrees S is essentially neutral with respect to freshwater, -0.04 +/- 0.09 Sv. This is the nearly balancing sum of export to the Atlantic through Bering Strait (-0.07 +/- 0.02 Sv), export to the Indian through the Indonesian Throughflow (-0.17 +/- 0.05 Sv), a negligible export due to freshening of upwelled bottom waters (-0.03 +/- 0.03 Sv), and import of 0.23 +/- 0.04 Sv from the Southern Ocean via the shallow gyre circulation. 3. Bering Strait's small freshwater transport of <0.1 Sv helps maintains the Atlantic-Pacific salinity difference. However, proportionally large variations in the small Bering Strait transport would only marginally impact NADW salinity, whose freshening relative to saline surface water is mainly due to air-sea/runoff fluxes in the subpolar North Atlantic and Arctic. In contrast, in the Pacific, because the total overturning rate is much smaller than in the Atlantic, Bering Strait freshwater export has proportionally much greater impact on North Pacific salinity balances, including NPIW salinity. (C) 2008 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Notes:

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DOI:

10.1016/j.pocean.2008.05.001