Surface Pathways Connecting the South and North Atlantic Oceans

Kimberley L. Drouin, M. Susan Lozier, Francisco J. Beron-Vera, Philippe Miron, Maria J. Olascoaga

Research output: Contribution to journalLetterpeer-review


The North Brazil Current (NBC) is considered a bottleneck in the South Atlantic, responsible for carrying upper-ocean waters into the North Atlantic. This work explores the surface pathways connecting the NBC and 26°N in the North Atlantic. To identify said pathways, we use observational trajectories from surface drifters in conjunction with transition path theory applied on a Markov chain. The pathways are computed as ensembles of paths transitioning directly between the NBC and 26°N. Our results suggest that there are two dominant surface pathways: The first is the traditional pathway through the Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico, carrying waters to the Florida Current, while the second is a direct route east of the Caribbean supplying waters to the Antilles Current and basin interior. The latter is composed of multiple pathways that are collectively more probable than the traditional pathway.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2021GL096646
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 16 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • interhemispheric pathways
  • markov chain
  • North Atlantic pathways
  • South Atlantic pathways
  • surface pathway
  • transition path theory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)


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