Overflow Water Pathways in the North Atlantic

TitleOverflow Water Pathways in the North Atlantic
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2022
AuthorsM. Lozier, S, Bower, AS, Furey, HH, Drouin, KL, Xu, X, Zou, S
JournalProgress In Oceanography

As part of the international Overturning in the Subpolar North Atlantic Program (OSNAP), 135 acoustically-tracked deep floats were deployed to track the spreading pathways of Iceland-Scotland Overflow Water (ISOW) and Denmark Strait Overflow Water (DSOW) from 2014 to 2018. These water masses, which originate in the Nordic Seas, are transported by the deepest branch of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC). The OSNAP floats provide the first directly-observed, comprehensive Lagrangian view of ISOW and DSOW spreading pathways throughout the subpolar North Atlantic. The collection of OSNAP float trajectories, complemented by model simulations, reveals that their pathways are (a) not restricted to western boundary currents, and (b) remarkably different from each other in character. The spread of DSOW from the Irminger Sea is primarily via the swift deep boundary currents of the Irminger and Labrador Seas, whereas the spread of ISOW out of the Iceland Basin is slower and along multiple export pathways. The characterization of these Overflow Water pathways has important implications for our understanding of the AMOC and its variability. Finally, reconstructions of AMOC variability from proxy data, involving either the strength of boundary currents and/or the property variability of deep waters, should account for the myriad pathways of DSOW and ISOW, but particularly so for the latter.