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Components of Upper-Ocean Salt Transport by the Gyres and the Meridional Overturning Circulation


AbstractThe salt transport by the wind-driven gyres and the meridional overturning circulation (MOC) is studied in an idealized-geometry primitive equation ocean model. Two narrow continents, running along meridians, divide the model domain into two basins of different widths connected by a re-entrant channel south of 52.5°S. One of the continents, representing the Americas, is longer than the other, representing Europe/Africa. Two different configurations of the model are used: the “standard” one, in which the short continent is west of the wide basin, and the “exchanged” one, in which the short continent is west of the narrow basin. In both cases, deep water is formed in the basin to the west of the short continent. Most residual transport of the MOC’s upper branch enters this basin by flowing along open streamlines that pass westward south of the short continent before proceeding northward. The meridional salt transport in the upper ocean of the sinking basin is decomposed into two portions: transport along open streamlines and transport by closed streamlines (gyres). In the Northern Hemisphere of the basin in which deep water is formed, the total northward salt transport per unit width along open streamlines is larger in the standard configuration than in the exchanged configuration. This larger salt transport is caused by two factors: a larger northward advection of salt by the interbasin transport and a larger cross-streamline salt transport out of the subpolar gyre. It is concluded that increasing interbasin flow south of Africa would likely bring more salt into the Atlantic Ocean.

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