Deep Western Boundary Current Hydrography

Stations frequently visited during the Deep Western Boundary Current Hydrography cruise .

Over the past 20 years a variety of snapshot sections and time series moorings have been placed along the continental slope east of Abaco Island, Grand Bahamas, in order to monitor variability of the transport carried by the Deep Western Boundary Current. The Abaco time series began in August 1984 when the NOAA Subtropical Atlantic Climate Studies Program extended its Straits of Florida program to include measurements of western boundary current transports and water mass properties east of Abaco Island, Grand Bahamas. Since 1986, over 20 hydrographic sections have been completed east of Abaco, most including direct velocity observations, and salinity and oxygen bottle samples. Many sections have also included carbon, chloroflourocarbon, and other tracers.

The repeated hydrographic and tracer sampling at Abaco has established a high-resolution record of water mass properties in the Deep Western Boundary Current at 26N. Events such as the intense convection period in the Labrador Sea and the renewal of classical Labrador Sea Water in the 1980's are clearly reflected in the cooling and freshening of the Deep Western Boundary Current waters off Abaco, and the arrival of a strong chlorofluorocarbon pulse approximately 10 years later. This data set is unique in that it is not just a single time series site but a transport section, of which very few are available in the ocean that approach a decade in length.

These continued time series observations at Abaco are seen as serving three main purposes for climate variability studies:

  • Monitoring of the DWBC for water mass and transport signatures related to changes in the strengths and regions of high latitude water mass formation in the North Atlantic for the ultimate purpose of assessing rapid climate change.
  • Serving as a western boundary endpoint of a subtropical meridional overturning circulation (MOC)/heat flux monitoring system designed to measure the interior dynamic height difference across the entire Atlantic basin and its associated baroclinic heat transport.
  • Monitoring the intensity of the Antilles Current as an index (together with the Florida Current) of interannual variability in the strength of the subtropical gyre.

CTD package being deployed east of Abaco Island (Bahamas) aboard the RV Knorr.