Breaking the linkage between labrador sea water production and its advective export to the subtropical gyre
© 2016 American Meteorological Society. Deep water formation in the northern North Atlantic has been of long-standing interest because the resultant water masses, along with those that flow over the Greenland-Scotland Ridge, constitute the lower limb of the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC), which carries these cold, deep waters southward to the subtropical region and beyond. It has long been assumed that an increase in deep water formation would result in a larger southward export of newly formed deep water masses. However, recent observations of Lagrangian floats have raised questions about this linkage. Motivated by these observations, the relationship between convective activity in the Labrador Sea and the export of newly formed Labrador Sea Water (LSW), the shallowest component of the deep AMOC, to the subtropics is explored. This study uses simulated Lagrangian pathways of synthetic floats produced with output from a global ocean-sea ice model. It is shown that substantial recirculation of newly formed LSW in the subpolar gyre leads to a relatively small fraction of this water exported to the subtropical gyre: 40 years after release, only 46% of the floats are able to reach the subtropics. Furthermore, waters produced from any one particular convection event are not collectively and contemporaneously exported to the subtropical gyre, such that the waters that are exported to the subtropical gyre have a wide distribution in age.
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