Variability of shallow and deep western boundary currents off the Bahamas during 2004-05: Results from the 26 degrees N RAPID-MOC array

W. E. Johns, L. M. Beal, M. O. Baringer, J. R. Molina, S. A. Cunningham, T. Kanzow, D. Rayner

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81 Citations (Scopus)


Data from an array of six moorings deployed east of Abaco, Bahamas, along 26.5 degrees N during March 2004-May 2005 are analyzed. These moorings formed the western boundary array of a transbasin observing system designed to continuously monitor the meridional overturning circulation and meridional heat flux in the subtropical North Atlantic, under the framework of the joint U.K.-U.S. Rapid Climate Change ( RAPID)-Meridional Overturning Circulation ( MOC) Program. Important features of the western boundary circulation include the southward-flowing deep western boundary current ( DWBC) below 1000 m and the northward-flowing ``Antilles'' Current in the upper 1000 m. Transports in the western boundary layer are estimated from direct current meter observations and from dynamic height moorings that measure the spatially integrated geostrophic flow between moorings. The results of these methods are combined to estimate the time-varying transports in the upper and deep ocean over the width of the western boundary layer to a distance of 500 km offshore of the Bahamas escarpment. The net southward transport of the DWBC across this region, inclusive of northward deep recirculation, is -26.5 Sv ( Sv equivalent to 106 m(3) s(-1)), which is divided nearly equally between upper ( -13.9 Sv) and lower ( -12.6 Sv) North Atlantic Deep Water ( NADW). In the top 1000 m, 6.0 Sv flows northward in a thermocline-intensified jet near the western boundary. These transports are found to agree well with historical current meter data in the region collected between 1986 and 1997. Variability in both shallow and deep components of the circulation is large, with transports above 1000 m varying between -15 and +25 Sv and deep transports varying between -60 and +3 Sv. Much of this transport variability, associated with barotropic fluctuations, occurs on relatively short time scales of several days to a few weeks. Upon removal of the barotropic fluctuations, slower baroclinic transport variations are revealed, including a temporary stoppage of the lower NADW transport in the DWBC during November 2004.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)605-623
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Physical Oceanography
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2008


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