The deep western boundary current and adjacent interior circulation at 24°–30°n: Mean structure and mesoscale variability

Tiago Carrilho Biló, William E. Johns

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations

Abstract

The mean North Atlantic Deep Water (NADW, 1000 < z < 5000 m) circulation and deep western boundary current (DWBC) variability offshore of Abaco, Bahamas, at 26.5°N are investigated from nearly two decades of velocity and hydrographic observations, and outputs from a 30-yr-long eddy-resolving global simulation. Observations at 26.5°N and Argo-derived geostrophic velocities show the presence of a mean Abaco Gyre spanning the NADW layer, consisting of a closed cyclonic circulation between approximately 24° and 30°N and 72° and 77°W. The southward-flowing portion of this gyre (the DWBC) is constrained to within ~150 km of the western boundary with a mean transport of ~30 Sv (1 Sv ≡ 106 m3 s-1). Offshore of the DWBC, the data show a consistent northward recirculation with net transports varying from 6.5 to 16 Sv. Current meter records spanning 2008–17 supported by the numerical simulation indicate that the DWBC transport variability is dominated by two distinct types of fluctuations: 1) periods of 250–280 days that occur regularly throughout the time series and 2) energetic oscillations with periods between 400 and 700 days that occur sporadically every 5–6 years and force the DWBC to meander far offshore for several months. The shorter-period variations are related to DWBC meandering caused by eddies propagating southward along the continental slope at 24°–30°N, while the longer-period oscillations appear to be related to large anticy-clonic eddies that slowly propagate northwestward counter to the DWBC flow between ~20° and 26.5°N. Observational and theoretical evidence suggest that these two types of variability might be generated, re-spectively, by DWBC instability processes and Rossby waves reflecting from the western boundary.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2735-2758
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of Physical Oceanography
Volume50
Issue number9
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 1 2020
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Abyssal circulation
  • Currents
  • Eddies
  • Large-scale motions
  • Mesoscale processes
  • Oceanic variability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oceanography

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