Rates of Water Mass Formation in the North Atlantic Ocean
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CitationSpeer, Kevin, and Eli Tziperman. 1992. Rates of water mass formation in the North Atlantic ocean. Journal of Physical Oceanography 22(1): 93-104.
AbstractNorth Atlantic air-sea heat and freshwater flux data from several sources are used to estimate the conversion rate of water from one density to another throughout the range of sea surface density. This cross-isopycnal mass flux varies greatly over the ocean, with a maximum of 32.2 × 106 m3 s−1 at σ = 26.1 kg m−3 (toward greater densities) and a minimum of −7.6 × 106 m3 s−1 (toward lesser densities) at σ = 23.0 kg m−3. The air-sea fluxes force water to accumulate in three density bands: one at the lowest sea surface densities generated by heating; one centered near the density of subtropical mode water; and one spanning subpolar mode water densities. The transfer of water to the highest and lowest densities is balanced by mixing, which returns water to the middle density range, and also by boundary sources or sinks. Integrating the cross-isopycnal flux over all densities gives an annual average sinking of about 9 × 1O6 m3 s−1, which presumably escapes across the equator and must be balanced by a similar inflow. Comparison with estimates from tracer studies suggests that the renewal of tracer characteristics at a given density may occur without the existence of an annual average mass source at that density, because along- and cross-isopycnal mixing can renew a tracer without supplying mass.
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