Subpolar North Atlantic Overturning and Gyre-Scale Circulation in the Summers of 2014 and 2016

N. Penny Holliday, Sheldon Bacon, Stuart Cunningham, Stefan Gary, Johannes Karstensen, BA King, Feili Li, EL McDonagh

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The Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) is a key component of the global
climate system through its transport of heat and freshwater. The subpolar North Atlantic (SPNA) is a
region where the AMOC is actively developed and shaped though mixing and water mass transformation and where large amounts of heat are released to the atmosphere. Two hydrographic transbasin sections
in the summers of 2014 and 2016 provide highly spatially resolved views of the SPNA velocity and property
fields on a line from Canada to Greenland to Scotland. Estimates of the AMOC, isopycnal (gyre-scale)
transport, and heat and freshwater transport are derived from the observations. The overturning circulation, the maximum in northward transport integrated from the surface to seafloor and computed in density space, has a high range, with 20.6 ± 4.7 Sv in June–July 2014 and 10.6 ± 4.3 Sv in May–August 2016. In contrast, the isopycnal (gyre-scale) circulation was lowest in summer 2014: 41.3 ± 8.2 Sv compared to
58.6 ± 7.4 Sv in 2016. The heat transport (0.39 ± 0.08 PW in summer 2014, positive is northward) was highest for the section with the highest AMOC, and the freshwater transport was largest in summer 2016
when the isopycnal circulation was high (_0.25 ± 0.08 Sv). Up to 65% of the heat and freshwater transport
was carried by the isopycnal circulation, with isopycnal property transport highest in the western
Labrador Sea and the eastern basins (Iceland Basin to Scotland).
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4538-4559
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Oceans
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jul 2018


  • subpolar North Atlantic
  • Atlantic meridional overturning circulation
  • isopycnal circulation
  • freshwater transport
  • heat transport


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