Changes in the CFC inventories and formation rates of Upper Labrador Sea Water, 1997-2001

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Journal of Physical Oceanography
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Chlorofluorocarbon ( component CFC-11) and hydrographic data from 1997, 1999, and 2001 are presented to track the large-scale spreading of the Upper Labrador Sea Water (ULSW) in the subpolar gyre of the North Atlantic Ocean. ULSW is CFC rich and comparatively low in salinity. It is located on top of the denser "classical" Labrador Sea Water (LSW), defined in the density range sigma(Theta) = 27.68 - 27.74 kg m(-3). It follows spreading pathways similar to LSW and has entered the eastern North Atlantic. Despite data gaps, the CFC-11 inventories of ULSW in the subpolar North Atlantic (40 degrees - 65 degrees N) could be estimated within 11%. The inventory increased from 6.0 +/- 0.6 million moles in 1997 to 8.1 +/- 0.6 million moles in 1999 and to 9.5 +/- 0.6 million moles in 2001. CFC-11 inventory estimates were used to determine ULSW formation rates for different periods. For 1970 - 97, the mean formation rate resulted in 3.2 - 3.3 Sv ( Sv = 10(6) m(3) s(-1)). To obtain this estimate, 5.0 million moles of CFC-11 located in 1997 in the ULSW in the subtropical/tropical Atlantic were added to the inventory of the subpolar North Atlantic. An estimate of the mean combined ULSW/LSW formation rate for the same period gave 7.6 - 8.9 Sv. For the years 1998 - 99, the ULSW formation rate solely based on the subpolar North Atlantic CFC-11 inventories yielded 6.9 - 9.2 Sv. At this time, the lack of classical LSW formation was almost compensated for by the strongly pronounced ULSW formation. Indications are presented that the convection area needed in 1998 - 99 to form this amount of ULSW exceeded the available area in the Labrador Sea. The Irminger Sea might be considered as an additional region favoring ULSW formation. In 2000 - 01, ULSW formation weakened to 3.3 - 4.7 Sv. Time series of layer thickness based on historical data indicate that there exists considerable variability of ULSW and classical LSW formation on decadal scales.


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