The mean flow and variability of the Gulf stream-slopewater system from MICOM

Angelique C. Haza, Arthur J. Mariano, Toshio M. Chin, Donald B. Olson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


The slopewater region is influenced by surface wind-driven, deep buoyancy-driven and shelf currents, whose complex interactions can affect both the northward heat transport and southward return flows. The mean flow and variability of the Gulf Stream-slopewater system are studied using four year outputs of Miami Isopycnic Coordinate Ocean Model (MICOM) realistic high-resolution simulation of the North Atlantic circulation. Special attention is focused on the eastward Slopewater Jet (SJ), a surface current characterized by a mean path coinciding with the strong outcropping temperature front in the slopewater. The water mass, path and transport of the SJ in MICOM are found to be in reasonable agreement with the existing observations. The modeled SJ is associated in part with a GS' secondary branch, induced by a Taylor column effect of the New England Seamount Chain (NESC) on the upper GS. This upper-ocean-topographic coupling results in a spatial GS bifurcation, and advection of GS waters into the slopewater region shortly downstream of the NESC. An EOF analysis of the pycnocline depth confirms this tendency, as the first mode displays a qualitative dependence of the GS fan-shape streamline dispersion on the strength and intersecting latitude of the incident GS. Additionally, the model displays a strong influence of the Deep Western Boundary Current (DWBC) on the path of the SJ, by acting as a potential vorticity barrier. Important interactions between the two currents are suggested by the statistical EOF of the slopewater column, as in observations. Downstream of the NESC, the SJ transport variability is seasonal in MICOM, due to the north-south annual oscillation of the GS path and mergings with anticyclonic eddies. However, the variability of the SJ velocity profile is dominated (49% eigenvalue) by lateral translations of the current, at a 9-month timescale characteristic of GS meander-intensity variability. South of the Grand Banks, the transport variations of both the SJ and Labrador Current (LC) are captured by the first mode of the upper-slope water (37% of the variability), with predominant timescales corresponding to the upstream variability of the GS, and seasonality of the LC. Both modes are also in reasonable agreement with observations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)239-276
Number of pages38
JournalOcean Modelling
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2007

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oceanography
  • Computer Science (miscellaneous)
  • Geotechnical Engineering and Engineering Geology
  • Atmospheric Science


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