Interior pathways of the North Atlantic meridional overturning circulation.

Published

Journal Article

To understand how our global climate will change in response to natural and anthropogenic forcing, it is essential to determine how quickly and by what pathways climate change signals are transported throughout the global ocean, a vast reservoir for heat and carbon dioxide. Labrador Sea Water (LSW), formed by open ocean convection in the subpolar North Atlantic, is a particularly sensitive indicator of climate change on interannual to decadal timescales. Hydrographic observations made anywhere along the western boundary of the North Atlantic reveal a core of LSW at intermediate depths advected southward within the Deep Western Boundary Current (DWBC). These observations have led to the widely held view that the DWBC is the dominant pathway for the export of LSW from its formation site in the northern North Atlantic towards the Equator. Here we show that most of the recently ventilated LSW entering the subtropics follows interior, not DWBC, pathways. The interior pathways are revealed by trajectories of subsurface RAFOS floats released during the period 2003-2005 that recorded once-daily temperature, pressure and acoustically determined position for two years, and by model-simulated 'e-floats' released in the subpolar DWBC. The evidence points to a few specific locations around the Grand Banks where LSW is most often injected into the interior. These results have implications for deep ocean ventilation and suggest that the interior subtropical gyre should not be ignored when considering the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Bower, AS; Lozier, MS; Gary, SF; Böning, CW

Published Date

  • May 2009

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 459 / 7244

Start / End Page

  • 243 - 247

PubMed ID

  • 19444214

Pubmed Central ID

  • 19444214

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1476-4687

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0028-0836

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1038/nature07979

Language

  • eng