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Directly measured mid-depth circulation in the northeastern North Atlantic Ocean.

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      Abstract

      The circulation of water masses in the northeastern North Atlantic Ocean has a strong influence on global climate owing to the northward transport of warm subtropical water to high latitudes. But the ocean circulation at depths below the reach of satellite observations is difficult to measure, and only recently have comprehensive, direct observations of whole ocean basins been possible. Here we present quantitative maps of the absolute velocities at two levels in the northeastern North Atlantic as obtained from acoustically tracked floats. We find that most of the mean flow transported northward by the Gulf Stream system at the thermocline level (about 600 m depth) remains within the subpolar region, and only relatively little enters the Rockall trough or the Nordic seas. Contrary to previous work, our data indicate that warm, saline water from the Mediterranean Sea reaches the high latitudes through a combination of narrow slope currents and mixing processes. At both depths under investigation, currents cross the Mid-Atlantic Ridge preferentially over deep gaps in the ridge, demonstrating that sea-floor topography can constrain even upper-ocean circulation patterns.

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      Affiliations
      [1 ] Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, Massachusetts 02543, USA. abower@whoi.edu
      Journal
      Nature
      Nature
      Springer Nature
      0028-0836
      0028-0836
      Oct 10 2002
      : 419
      : 6907
      12374975 10.1038/nature01078 nature01078

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