Overturning in the Subpolar North Atlantic Program: a new international ocean observing system

M. Susan Lozier, Sheldon Bacon, Amy S. Bower, Stuart Cunningham, M. Femke de Jong, Laura de Steur, Brad deYoung, Jürgen Fischer, Stefan Gary, Blair J.W. Greenan, Patrick Heimbach, Naomi P. Holliday, Loïc Houpert, Loic Houpert, Mark Inall, William E. Johns, Helen L. Johnson, Johannes Karstensen, Feili Li, Xiaopei LinNeill Mackay, David P. Marshall, Herlé Mercier, Paul G. Myers, Robert S. Pickart, Helen R. Pillar, Fiammetta Straneo, Virginie Thierry, Robert A. Weller, Richard G. Williams, Chris Wilson, Jiayan Yang, Jian Zhao, Jan D. Zika

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A new ocean observing system has been launched in the North Atlantic in order to understand the linkage between the meridional overturning circulation and deep water formation.

For decades oceanographers have understood the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) to be primarily driven by changes in the production of deep water formation in the subpolar and subarctic North Atlantic. Indeed, current IPCC projections of an AMOC slowdown in the 21st century based on climate models are attributed to the inhibition of deep convection in the North Atlantic. However, observational evidence for this linkage has been elusive: there has been no clear demonstration of AMOC variability in response to changes in deep water formation. The motivation for understanding this linkage is compelling since the overturning circulation has been shown to sequester heat and anthropogenic carbon in the deep ocean. Furthermore, AMOC variability is expected to impact this sequestration as well as have consequences for regional and global climates through its effect on the poleward transport of warm water. Motivated by the need for a mechanistic understanding of the AMOC, an international community has assembled an observing system, Overturning in the Subpolar North Atlantic (OSNAP), to provide a continuous record of the trans-basin fluxes of heat, mass and freshwater and to link that record to convective activity and water mass transformation at high latitudes. OSNAP, in conjunction with the RAPID/MOCHA array at 26°N and other observational elements, will provide a comprehensive measure of the three-dimensional AMOC and an understanding of what drives its variability. The OSNAP observing system was fully deployed in the summer of 2014 and the first OSNAP data products are expected in the fall of 2017.
Original languageEnglish
JournalBulletin of the American Meteorological Society
Publication statusPublished - 23 Aug 2016


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