Estimates of North Atlantic Ventilation and Mode Water Formation for Winters 2002–06 Academic Article uri icon


  • Lagrangian estimates for ventilation rates in the Gulf Stream Extension using Argo and World Ocean Circulation Experiment/Atlantic Climate and Circulation Experiment (WOCE/ACCE) float data, scatterometer (QuikSCAT) wind stress satellite observations, and altimetric [Archiving, Validation, and Interpretation of Satellite Oceanographic data (AVISO)] sea surface height (SSH) satellite observations from 2002 to 2006 are presented. Satellite winds and estimates of surface geostrophic currents allow the inclusion of the effects of currents on wind stress as well as their impact on the Ekman pumping. The presence of large surface geostrophic currents decreases the total Ekman pumping, contributing up to 20% where the Gulf Stream makes its two sharpest turns, and increases the total Ekman pumping by 10% or less everywhere else. The ageostrophic currents may be as large as 15% of the geostrophic currents, but only in proximity of the Gulf Stream. Using currents and mixed layer depths (MLDs) that are either climatological or vary from year to year, obducted water tends to originate along the Gulf Stream, while subducted water tends to originate to its south. However, using time-varying MLDs for each year, subduction varies significantly, sometimes oppositely from obduction. The 18° Water (EDW) subducts in different locations and is distributed differently each year but tends to be located in the Sargasso Sea. Vertical pumping is the only dominant factor in ventilation closer to the coast where MLDs are shallower and lighter parcels are subducted. Vertical pumping contributes up to 20% of the several hundreds of ventilated meters per year around the Gulf Stream and less elsewhere. Using a temperature- or density-based criterion for estimating the MLDs, especially along the coasts and north of 45°N, obduction estimates differ by up to 25%. The horizontal and temporal structure of the MLDs is the primary factor that controls the tens of sverdrups of ventilation (and a few sverdrups of EDW subduction).

publication date

  • October 2009