Slantwise Convection in the Irminger Sea

TitleSlantwise Convection in the Irminger Sea
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2022
AuthorsLe Bras, IA-A, Callies, J, Straneo, F, Biló, TC, Holte, J, Johnson, HL
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Oceans
Keywords13 Climate Action

The subpolar North Atlantic is a site of significant carbon dioxide, oxygen, and heat exchange with the atmosphere. This exchange, which regulates transient climate change and prevents large-scale hypoxia throughout the North Atlantic, is thought to be mediated by vertical mixing in the ocean's surface mixed layer. Here we present observational evidence that waters deeper than the conventionally defined mixed layer are affected directly by atmospheric forcing in this region. When northerly winds blow along the Irminger Sea's western boundary current, the Ekman response pushes denser water over lighter water, potentially triggering slantwise convection. We estimate that this down-front wind forcing is four times stronger than air–sea heat flux buoyancy forcing and can mix waters to several times the conventionally defined mixed layer depth. Slantwise convection is not included in most large-scale ocean models, which likely limits their ability to accurately represent subpolar water mass transformations and deep ocean ventilation.