Isohaline Salinity Budget of the North Atlantic Salinity Maximum

Thursday, 18 December 2014: 3:25 PM
Frank Bryan, National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, CO, United States and Scott Bachman, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, United Kingdom
The Salinity Processes in the Upper Ocean Regional Study (SPURS) field experiment was designed as a multi-scale investigation of the processes that give rise to the North Atlantic subtropical salinity maximum. The choice of control volume influences the processes that dominate budgets of ocean properties. In this study we analyze the salinity budget of the North Atlantic subtropical salinity maximum region for control volumes bounded by isohaline surfaces. We provide closed budgets based on output from a high-resolution numerical simulation, and partial budgets based on climatological analyses of observations. With this choice of control volume, advection is eliminated from the instantaneous volume integrated salt budget, and time mean advection eliminated from the budget evaluated from time-averaged data. In this way, the role of irreversible mixing processes in the maintenance and variability of the salinity maximum are more readily revealed. By carrying out the analysis with near instantaneous and time-filtered model output, the role of mesoscale eddies in stirring and mixing for this region is determined. We find that the small-scale mixing acting on enhanced gradients generated by the mesoscale eddies is approximately equal to that acting on the large-scale gradients estimated from climatological mean conditions. The isohaline salinity budgets can be related to water mass transformation rates associated with surface forcing and mixing processes in a straightforward manner. We find that the surface net evaporation in the North Atlantic salinity maximum region accounts for a transformation of 7 Sv of water into the salinity maximum in the simulation, whereas the estimate based on climatological observations is 10 Sv.