The spreading of Iceland Scotland Overflow Water (ISOW) in the eastern North Atlantic has largely been studied in an Eulerian frame using numerical models or with observations limited to a few locations. No study to date has provided a comprehensive description of the ISOW spreading pathways from both Eulerian and Lagrangian perspectives. In this paper, we use a combination of previously unreported current meter data, hydrographic data, RAFOS float data, and a high resolution (1/12°) numerical ocean model to study the spreading pathways of ISOW from both of these perspectives. We identify three ISOW transport cores in the central Iceland Basin (∼59°N), with the major core along the eastern boundary of the Reykjanes Ridge (RR) and the other two in the basin interior. Based on trajectories of observed and/or numerical floats seeded along 59°N, we also describe the ISOW spreading pathways and quantify their relative importance. Within 10 years, 7–11% of ISOW from 59°N escapes into the Irminger Sea via gaps in the RR north of the Charlie Gibbs Fracture Zone (CGFZ); the water that moves through these gaps principally originates from the shallower ISOW layer along the RR eastern boundary. 10–13% travels further southward until the CGFZ, where it crosses westward into the western subpolar gyre. 18–21% of ISOW spreads southward along the eastern flank of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge into the Western European Basin (WEB). Most of the remaining water stays in the Iceland Basin over the 10-year period. A model-based investigation provides a first look at the temporal variability of these ISOW pathways. We find that the fraction of southward water exported into the WEB is anti-correlated with the export through the CGFZ, a result assumed to reflect these pathways’ interactions with the North Atlantic Current in magnitude and/or position shift.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Aquatic Science