Fast response of deep ocean circulation to mid-latitude winds in the Atlantic

Maximum covariance analysis (MCA) showing the area ocean bottom pressure which is ‘activated’ by wind stress curl over the Atlantic.


In situ observations of transbasin deep ocean transports at 26◦N show variability on monthly to decadal timescales (2004–2015). Satellite-based estimates of ocean bottom pressure from the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellites were previously used to estimate interannual variability of deep ocean transports at 26◦N. Here, we use GRACE ocean bottom pressure, reanalysis winds and in situ transport estimates at 26◦N to diagnose the large-scale response of the deep ocean circulation to wind-forcing. We find that deep ocean transports—including those associated with a reversal of the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation in 2009/10 and 2010/11—are part of a large-scale response to wind stress curl over the intergyre-gyre region. Wind-forcing dominates deep ocean circulation variability on monthly timescales, but interannual fluctuations in the residual in situ transports (after removing the wind-effect) are also captured by GRACE bottom pressure measurements. On decadal timescales, uncertainty in regional trends in GRACE ocean bottom pressure preclude investigation of decadal-timescale transport trends.

Geophys. Res. Lett. (rejected)
Eleanor Frajka-Williams
Eleanor Frajka-Williams
Professor of Ocean Dynamics in a Changing Climate

I am a physical oceanographer who uses ocean observations to investigate ocean dynamics and circulation in a changing climate. I have a particular interest in problems spanning scales (from micro- to large-scale) or spheres (biogeosphere, cryosphere, atmosphere), and in methods that leverage traditional observations with new platforms and satellite data.