Meridional heat transport variability induced by mesoscale processes in the subpolar North Atlantic. Academic Article uri icon


  • The ocean's role in global climate change largely depends on its heat transport. Therefore, understanding the oceanic meridional heat transport (MHT) variability is a fundamental issue. Prevailing observational and modeling evidence suggests that MHT variability is primarily determined by the large-scale ocean circulation. Here, using new in situ observations in the eastern subpolar North Atlantic Ocean and an eddy-resolving numerical model, we show that energetic mesoscale eddies with horizontal scales of about 10-100?km profoundly modulate MHT variability on time scales from intra-seasonal to interannual. Our results reveal that the velocity changes due to mesoscale processes produce substantial variability for the MHT regionally (within sub-basins) and the subpolar North Atlantic as a whole. The findings have important implications for understanding the mechanisms for poleward heat transport variability in the subpolar North Atlantic Ocean, a key region for heat and carbon sequestration, ice-ocean interaction, and biological productivity.

publication date

  • March 19, 2018