Observed variability of the North Atlantic Current in the Rockall Trough from four years of mooring measurements
The Rockall Trough is one of the main conduits for warm Atlantic Water to the Nordic Seas. Ocean heat anomalies, originating from the eastern subpolar gyre, are known to influence Arctic sea ice extent, marine ecosystems, and continental climate. Knowledge of the transport through this basin has previously been limited to estimates from hydrographic sections which cannot characterize the intra-annual and multiannual variability. As part of the Overturning in the Subpolar North Atlantic
... h Atlantic Programme (OSNAP), a mooring array was deployed in the Rockall Trough in order to obtain the first continuous measurements of transport. Here, we define the methodology and the errors associated with estimating these transports. Results show a 4-year mean northward transport of 6.6 Sv (1 Sv = 10 6 m 3 /s) by the North Atlantic Current (NAC) in the east and interior of the Rockall Trough (2014-2018). A mean transport of −2.0 Sv (southward) is observed in the west of the basin, which could be part of a recirculation around the Rockall Plateau. The 90-day low-pass-filtered transport shows large subannual and interannual variability (−1.6 to 9.1 Sv), mostly resulting from changes in the midbasin geostrophic transport. Satellite altimetry reveals the periods of low and high transport are associated with significant changes in the Rockall Trough circulation. There is a detectable seasonal signal, with the greatest transport in spring and autumn. Plain Language Summary There is mounting evidence that the North Atlantic Current (eastward extension of the Gulf Stream) heavily influences the European and Arctic climate. To adequately measure this current and understand its dynamics, an array of underwater instruments was deployed in the Rockall Trough, a remote region of the eastern North Atlantic. Over a 4-year period, these instruments continuously collected measurements of temperature, salinity, pressure, and velocity data. Analysis of these data provides a new and more accurate description of the North Atlantic Current in this region. This study reveals a surprisingly large variability in the eastern North Atlantic circulation. The combined analysis of underwater measurements and satellite data indicates that this variability is due to changes of the North Atlantic Current system.