Subpolar Mode Water in the northeastern Atlantic: 2. Origin and transformation



[1] The processes that lead to the transformation and origin of the eastern North Atlantic Subpolar Mode Waters (SPMW) are investigated from observational data using an extended Walin framework. Air-sea flux data from the National Oceanography Center, Southampton (NOCS), and hydrographic data from the A24 cruise collected during the World Ocean Circulation Experiment (WOCE) are used to estimate the contribution of diapycnal and isopycnal fluxes to the density classes that include SPMW. Surface diapycnal volume flux is the dominant source of waters in the SPMW density. In the North Atlantic subpolar gyre the diapycnal volume flux occurs along the main branches of the North Atlantic Current (NAC) and it has an average transport of 14 ± 6.5 Sv, with a maximum of 21.5 Sv across the 27.35σθ isopycnal. The regional distribution of the diapycnal flux on isopycnal surfaces is computed to identify the areas with the largest diapycnal flux. These regions coincide with the location of SPMW based on potential vorticity. The surface diapycnal flux is associated with obduction and subduction through the permanent pycnocline. Therefore, the water involved in the transformation of SPMWs is continuously exchanged with the ocean interior. In addition, we suggest that subduction is not associated with smooth advection from the mixed layer to the ocean interior, but is water mass loss entrainment into the deep overflows of the subpolar gyre. The isopycnal component of the SPMW throughput is estimated from the geostrophic transport across the A24 section from Greenland to Scotland and is 10% to 40% of the diapycnal flux.