Structure, transports and transformations of the water masses in the Atlantic Subpolar Gyre

Maribel I. García-Ibáñez, Paula C. Pardo, Lidia I. Carracedo, Herlé Mercier, Pascale Lherminier, Aida F. Ríos, Fiz F. Pérez

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59 Citations (Scopus)


We discuss the distributions and transports of the main water masses in the North Atlantic Subpolar Gyre (NASPG) for the mean of the period 2002-2010 (OVIDE sections 2002-2010 every other year), as well as the inter-annual variability of the water mass structure from 1997 (4x and METEOR sections) to 2010. The water mass structure of the NASPG, quantitatively assessed by means of an Optimum MultiParameter analysis (with 14 water masses), was combined with the velocity fields resulting from previous studies using inverse models to obtain the water mass volume transports. We also evaluate the relative contribution to the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) of the main water masses characterizing the NASPG, identifying the water masses that contribute to the AMOC variability. The reduction of the magnitude of the upper limb of the AMOC between 1997 and the 2000s is associated with the reduction in the northward transport of the Central Waters. This reduction of the northward flow of the AMOC is partially compensated by the reduction of the southward flow of the lower limb of the AMOC, associated with the decrease in the transports of Polar Intermediate Water and Subpolar Mode Water (SPMW) in the Irminger Basin. We also decompose the flow over the Reykjanes Ridge from the East North Atlantic Basin to the Irminger Basin (9.4. ±. 4.7. Sv) into the contributions of the Central Waters (2.1. ±. 1.8. Sv), Labrador Sea Water (LSW, 2.4. ±. 2.0. Sv), Subarctic Intermediate Water (SAIW, 4.0. ±. 0.5. Sv) and Iceland-Scotland Overflow Water (ISOW, 0.9. ±. 0.9. Sv). Once LSW and ISOW cross over the Reykjanes Ridge, favoured by the strong mixing around it, they leave the Irminger Basin through the deep-to-bottom levels. The results also give insights into the water mass transformations within the NASPG, such as the contribution of the Central Waters and SAIW to the formation of the different varieties of SPMW due to air-sea interaction.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)18-36
Number of pages19
JournalProgress in Oceanography
Early online date9 May 2015
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2015
Externally publishedYes

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