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SAVI: Collaborative Research: Overturning in the Subpolar North Atlantic – Labrador Basin and Floats: Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

Robert Pickart

[email protected]

This project is one of two components of a US-led international program, Overturning in the Sub-polar North Atlantic (OSNAP), designed to provide a continuous record of the full-water column, trans-basin fluxes of heat, mass and freshwater in the subpolar North Atlantic. The OSNAP observing system consists of two legs: one extending from southern Labrador to the southwestern tip of Greenland across the mouth of the Labrador Sea (OSNAP West), and the second from the southeastern tip of Greenland to Scotland (OSNAP East). The observing system also includes subsurface floats (OSNAP Floats) in order to trace the pathways of overflow waters in the basin and to assess the connectivity of currents crossing the OSNAP line. The location of the OSNAP East and West legs purposefully melds with a number of long-term observational efforts in the North Atlantic: the Canadian repeat hydrography program in the Labrador Sea; the German Labrador Sea western boundary array at 53°N; the global Ocean Observatories Initiative node to be placed in the southwestern Irminger Sea; the repeat hydrographic sections across the Irminger and Iceland basins; and the Ellett line in the Rockall region. Substantial international collaboration has been garnered for OSNAP, including measurement contributions from the UK, Germany, the Netherlands and Canada. Importantly, this proposed observing system, in conjunction with the RAPID/MOCHA array at 26°N and the European Union NACLIM program at Nordic Seas overflows, will provide the first comprehensive three-dimensional measure of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) and provide a means to evaluate inter-gyre connectivity in the North Atlantic. <br/><br/>This collaborative project will implement the OSNAP West section and the OSNAP Float program. The primary observational components are: (i) a mooring array across the eastern margin of the Labrador Sea, where the subpolar boundary current enters the basin. This array will complement an analogous array across the western margin at the exit point of the Labrador Sea, maintained by institutions in Germany and Canada; (ii) a sequential release of acoustically tracked floats in the lower limb of the AMOC at the OSNAP East and OSNAP West boundary arrays. These floats will be seeded in the two densest components of North Atlantic Deep Water (NADW) over the four-year period of the measurement program (2014-2018).<br/><br/>Intellectual Merit: For decades oceanographers have understood the AMOC to be highly susceptible to changes in the production of NADW. However, a number of recent observational and modeling studies have called into question this supposition, as more has been learned about the role of wind forcing in AMOC variability. Thus, the overall goal of this project is to establish an observing system that will determine the role that intermediate and deep water mass formation and basin-scale wind forcing play in the overturning and associated poleward heat transport, assessments that currently have only been theorized and modeled, but not observed.<br/><br/>Broader Impact: In January of 2007, the US Joint Subcommittee on Ocean Science and Technology identified the study of the AMOC as one of four near-term priorities in the US Ocean Research Priorities Plan. This proposed work directly addresses that priority via a design of an AMOC observing system in the sub-polar North Atlantic. While a primary motivation for studying AMOC variability comes from its potential impact on the climate system, additional motivation for the measure of the heat, mass and freshwater fluxes in the sub-polar North Atlantic arises from their potential impact on marine biogeochemistry and the cryosphere. There is growing evidence that the ocean has played (and is playing) a role in the reduction of Arctic sea ice and in mass loss from the Greenland Ice Sheet – both of which have been attributed to changes in the poleward heat transport by the ocean. Also, the ocean plays an essential role in the carbon cycle by moderating increasing atmospheric concentrations of CO2 through the sequestration of anthropogenic carbon in the deep ocean. Variability in the AMOC is expected to impact this sequestration. Broader impacts also include the training of five graduate students in seagoing operations and in the processing and analysis of observational data. The graduate students will have an opportunity to collaborate with their international counterparts through virtual meetings and in-person visits and will be mentored by multiple advisors.<br/> <br/>This research award includes support for a Science Across Virtual Institutes (SAVI) that is co-funded by NSF's Office of International and Integrative Activities.

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