Subpolar Mode Water in the northeastern Atlantic: 1. Averaged properties and mean circulation

Brambilla, E, Talley LD.  2008.  Subpolar Mode Water in the northeastern Atlantic: 1. Averaged properties and mean circulation. Journal of Geophysical Research-Oceans. 113

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global ocean, intermediate, labrador sea-water, mid-depth circulation, nordic seas, northern north-atlantic, pacific, southern-ocean, transformation, velocities


Subpolar Mode Waters (SPMW) in the eastern North Atlantic subpolar gyre are investigated with hydrographic and Lagrangian data (surface drifters and isopycnal floats). Historical hydrographic data show that SPMWs are surface water masses with nearly uniform properties, confined between the ocean surface and the permanent pycnocline. SPMWs represented by densities 27.3(sigma theta), 27.4(sigma theta), and 27.5(sigma theta) are present in the eastern subpolar gyre and are influenced by the topography and the regional circulation. Construction of an absolute surface stream function from surface drifters shows that SPMWs are found along the mean path of each of the several branches of the North Atlantic Current (NAC) and their density increases gradually downstream. The Rockall Trough branch of the NAC carries 27.3(sigma theta), 27.4(sigma theta), and 27.5(sigma theta) SPMW toward the Iceland-Faroe Front. In the Iceland Basin, the Subarctic Front along the western flank of the Rockall Plateau carries a similar sequence of SPMW. The western side of the Central Iceland Basin branch of the NAC, on the other hand, veers westward and joins the East Reykjanes Ridge Current, feeding the 27.5(sigma theta) SPMW on the Reykjanes Ridge. The separation among the various NAC branches most likely explains the different properties that characterize the 27.5(sigma theta) SPMW found on the Reykjanes Ridge and on the Iceland-Faroe Ridge. Since the branches of the NAC have a dominant northeastward direction, the newly observed distribution of SPMW combined with the new stream function calculation modify the original hypothesis of McCartney and Talley (1982) of a smooth cyclonic pathway for SPMW advection and density increase around the subpolar gyre.






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