Observed variability of the North Atlantic Current in the Rockall Trough from four years on mooring measurements

Loïc Houpert, Stuart Cunningham, Neil Fraser, Clare Louise Johnson, N. Penny Holliday, Samuel Jones, Ben Moat, Darren Rayner

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The Rockall Trough is one of the main conduits for warm Atlantic Water to the Nordic Seas. Ocean heat anomalies, originating from the eastern subpolar gyre, are known to influence Arctic sea ice extent, marine ecosystems, and continental climate. Knowledge of the transport through this basin has previously been limited to estimates from hydrographic sections which cannot characterize the intra‐annual and multiannual variability. As part of the Overturning in the Subpolar North Atlantic Programme (OSNAP), a mooring array was deployed in the Rockall Trough in order to obtain the first continuous measurements of transport. Here, we define the methodology and the errors associated with estimating these transports. Results show a 4‐year mean northward transport of 6.6 Sv (1 Sv = 106 m3/s) by the North Atlantic Current (NAC) in the east and interior of the Rockall Trough (2014–2018). A mean transport of −2.0 Sv (southward) is observed in the west of the basin, which could be part of a recirculation around the Rockall Plateau. The 90‐day low‐pass‐filtered transport shows large subannual and interannual variability (−1.6 to 9.1 Sv), mostly resulting from changes in the midbasin geostrophic transport. Satellite altimetry reveals the periods of low and high transport are associated with significant changes in the Rockall Trough circulation. There is a detectable seasonal signal, with the greatest transport in spring and autumn.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2020JC016403
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Oceans
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 30 Sept 2020


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