Surface factors controlling the volume of accumulated Labrador Sea Water

We explore historical variability in the volume of Labrador Sea Water (LSW) using ECCO, an ocean state estimate configuration of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology general circulation model (MITgcm). The model's adjoint, a linearization of the MITgcm, is set up to output the lagged sensitivity of the water mass volume to surface boundary conditions. This allows us to reconstruct the evolution of LSW volume over recent decades using historical surface wind stress, heat, and freshwater fluxes. Each of these boundary conditions contributes significantly to the LSW variability that we recover, but these impacts are associated with different geographical fingerprints and arise over a range of time lags. We show that the volume of LSW accumulated in the Labrador Sea exhibits a delayed response to surface wind stress and buoyancy forcing outside the convective interior of the Labrador Sea at important locations in the North Atlantic Ocean. In particular, patterns of wind and surface density anomalies can act as a “traffic controller” and regulate the North Atlantic Current's (NAC's) transport of warm and saline subtropical water masses that are precursors for the formation of LSW. This propensity for a delayed response of LSW to remote forcing allows us to predict a limited yet substantial and significant fraction of LSW variability at least 1 year into the future. Our analysis also enables us to attribute LSW variability to different boundary conditions and to gain insight into the major mechanisms that contribute to volume anomalies in this deep water mass. We point out the important role of key processes that promote the formation of LSW in both the Irminger and Labrador seas: buoyancy loss and preconditioning along the NAC pathway and in the Iceland Basin, the Irminger Sea, and the Nordic Seas


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Authors: Kostov, Yavor, Messias, Marie-José, Mercier, Herlé, Marshall, David P., Johnson, Helen L.

On this site: Yavor Kostov
11 April, 2024
Ocean Science / 20
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