Continuous Estimate of Atlantic Oceanic Freshwater Flux at 26.5 degrees N

Elaine L. McDonagh, Brian A. King, Harry L. Bryden, Peggy Courtois, Zoltan Szuts, Molly Baringer, Stuart A. Cunningham, Chris Atkinson, Gerard McCarthy

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The first continuous estimates of freshwater flux across 26.5°N are calculated using observations from the RAPID–MOCHA–Western Boundary Time Series (WBTS) and Argo floats every 10 days between April 2004 and October 2012. The mean plus or minus the standard deviation of the freshwater flux (FW) is −1.17 ± 0.20 Sv (1 Sv ≡ 106 m3 s−1; negative flux is southward), implying a freshwater divergence of −0.37 ± 0.20 Sv between the Bering Strait and 26.5°N. This is in the sense of an input of 0.37 Sv of freshwater into the ocean, consistent with a region where precipitation dominates over evaporation. The sign and the variability of the freshwater divergence are dominated by the overturning component (−0.78 ± 0.21 Sv). The horizontal component of the freshwater divergence is smaller, associated with little variability and positive (0.35 ± 0.04 Sv). A linear relationship, describing 91% of the variance, exists between the strength of the meridional overturning circulation (MOC) and the freshwater flux (−0.37 − 0.047 Sv of FW per Sverdrups of MOC). The time series of the residual to this relationship shows a small (0.02 Sv in 8.5 yr) but detectable decrease in the freshwater flux (i.e., an increase in the southward freshwater flux) for a given MOC strength. Historical analyses of observations at 24.5°N are consistent with a more negative freshwater divergence from −0.03 to −0.37 Sv since 1974. This change is associated with an increased southward freshwater flux at this latitude due to an increase in the Florida Straits salinity (and therefore the northward salinity flux).
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)8888-8906
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Climate
Issue number22
Publication statusPublished - 16 Nov 2015


  • Circulation
  • Dynamics
  • Meridional overturning circulation
  • Atm
  • Ocean Structure
  • Phenomena
  • Freshwater
  • Physical Meteorology and Climatology
  • Salinity


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