Long-term hydrographic changes at 52 and 66°W in the North Atlantic Subtropical Gyre & Caribbean Academic Article uri icon


  • In July-September 1997 two hydrographic lines were done in the western N. Atlantic along longitudes of 52 and 66 degrees W as part of the WOCE one-time hydrographic survey of the oceans. Each of these two lines approximately repeated earlier ones done during the International Geophysical Year(s) (IGY) and the mid-1980s. Because of this repeated sampling, long-term hydrographic changes in the water masses can be examined. In this report, we focus on temperature and salinity changes within the subtropical gyre mainly between latitudes of 20 and 35 degrees N and compare our results to those presented by Bryden et al, (1996), who examined changes along a zonal line at 24 degrees N, most recently occupied in 1992. Since this most recent 24 degrees N section in 1992, substantial changes have occurred in the western part of the subtropical gyre at the depths of the Labrador Sea Water (LSW), In particular, we see clear evidence for colder, fresher Labrador Sea Water throughout the gyre on our two recent sections that was not yet present in 1992 at similar longitudes along 24 degrees N. At shallower depths inhabited by waters that are an admixture of Mediterranean (MW) and Antarctic Intermediate Waters (AAIW), our recent survey shows an increase in salinity, which can only be attributed to changes in water masses on potential temperature or neutral density surfaces. Furthermore, waters above the MW/AAIW layer and into the deeper part of the main pycnocline have continued to become saltier and warmer throughout the 40-year period spanned by our sections. These latter changes have been dominantly due to a vertical sinking of density surfaces as T/S changes in density surfaces are small!, brit depths of individual T/S horizons have increased with time. The net change since the IGY shows a mean temperature increase between 800 and 2500 m depth at a rate of 0.57 degrees C/century with a corresponding steric sea level rise of 1 mm/yr, and a net downward heave with small values near the top and bottom, and a maximum rate of -2.7 m/yr at 1800 m depth. Changes in the deep Caribbean indicate a warming since the IGY due to temperature increases of the inflowing source waters in the subtropical gyre at 1800m depth, but no significant change in the deep salinity. (C) 1999 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.

publication date

  • January 1999