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On the origin and pathway of the saline inflow to the Nordic Seas: insights from models

By A.L. New, S. Barnard, P. Herrmann and J.-M. Molines


The behaviours of three high-resolution ocean circulation models of the North Atlantic, differing chiefly in their description of the vertical coordinate, are investigated in order to elucidate the routes and mechanisms by which saline water masses of southern origin provide inflows to the Nordic Seas. An existing hypothesis is that Mediterranean Overflow Water (MOW) is carried polewards in an eastern boundary undercurrent, and provides a deep source for these inflows. This study, however, provides an alternative view that the inflows are derived from shallow sources, and are comprised of water masses of western origin, carried by branches of the North Atlantic Current (NAC), and also more saline Eastern North Atlantic Water (ENAW), transported northwards from the Bay of Biscay region via a ‘Shelf Edge Current’ (SEC) flowing around the continental margins. In two of the models, the MOW flows northwards, but reaches only as far as the Porcupine Bank<br/>(53°N). In third model, the MOW also invades the Rockall Trough (extending to 60°N). However, none of the models allows the MOW to flow northwards into the Nordic Seas. Instead, they all support the hyporthesis of there being shallow pathways, and that the saline inflows to the Nordic Seas result from NAC-derived<br/>and ENAW water masses, which meet and partially mix in the Rockall Trough. Volume and salinity transports into the southern Rockall Trough via the SEC are, in the various models, between 25 and 100% of those imported by the NAC, and are also a similarly significant proportion (20–75%) of the transports into the<br/>Nordic Seas. Moreover, the highest salinities are carried northwards by the SEC (these being between 0.13 and 0.19 psu more saline at the southern entrance to the Trough than those in the NAC-derived waters). This reveals for the first time the importance of the SEC in carrying saline water masses through the Rockall<br/>Trough and into the Nordic Seas. Furthermore, the high salinities found on density surfaces appropriate to the MOW in the Nordic Seas are shown to result from the wintertime mixing of the saline near-surface waters advected northwards by the SEC/NAC system. Throughout, we have attempted to demonstrate the<br/>extent to which the models agree or disagree with interpretations derived from observations, so that the study also contributes to an ongoing community effort to assess the realism of our current generation of ocean models

Topics: GC
Year: 2001
OAI identifier:
Provided by: e-Prints Soton

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