Observed and modeled pathways of the Iceland Scotland Overflow Water in the eastern North Atlantic

Sijia Zou, Susan Lozier, Walter Zenk, Amy Bower, William Johns

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)211-222
Number of pages12
JournalProgress in Oceanography
StatePublished - Dec 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aquatic Science
  • Geology


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