The role of wind stress curl (WSC) forcing in the observed interannual variability of the Florida Current (FC) transport is investigated. Evidence is provided for baroclinic adjustment as a physical mechanism linking interannual changes in WSC forcing and changes in the circulation of the North Atlantic subtropical gyre. A continuous monthly time series of FC transport is constructed using daily transports estimated from undersea telephone cables near 27°N in the Straits of Florida. This 25-yr-long time series is linearly regressed against interannual WSC variability derived from the NCEP-NCAR reanalysis. The results indicate that a substantial fraction of the FC transport variability at 3-12-yr periods is explained by low-frequency WSC variations. A lagged regression analysis is performed to explore hypothetical adjustment times of the wind-driven circulation. The estimated lag times are at least 2 times faster than those predicted by linear beta-plane planetary wave theory. Possible reasons for this discrepancy are discussed within the context of recent observational and theoretical developments. The results are then linked with earlier findings of a low-frequency anticorrelation between FC transport and the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) index, showing that this relationship could result from the positive (negative) WSC anomalies that develop between 20° and 30°N in the western North Atlantic during high (low) NAO phases. Ultimately, the observed role of wind forcing on the interannual variability of the FC could represent a benchmark for current efforts to monitor and predict the North Atlantic circulation.
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