Signatures of stirring and mixing near the Gulf Stream front
Abstract:In October, 1986 the surface waters adjacent to the Gulf Stream front were surveyed with an undulating profiler to describe the finescale structure of the mixed layer. The profiler was a Seasoar equipped with a CTD and fluorometer. The survey first defined the structure of a cyclonic eddy which resembled frontal eddies of the South Atlantic Bight in sea surface temperature imagery. The Seasoar transects revealed, however, that the cyclonic eddy lacked a cold dome typically seen in frontal eddies. Farther downstream the Seasoar defined the structure of streamers of Gulf Stream and Shelf water wrapped about the southern edge of a warm-core ring. The streamers had lateral and along-axis dimensions on the order of ≈ 10 km and 100 km, respectively, and were bordered by narrow intrusive features. The temporal history of the streamers was described from SST imagery, and the surface flow derived from ship's drift vectors. CTD casts taken while following an isopycnal float provided a means to examine the structure of the intrusive features. Interleaving was evident at the boundaries of the streamers and intrusive features where high conductivity Cox numbers were concentrated, suggesting elevated microstructure activity. The Turner angle distribution, indicating either saltfingering or diffusive convection, did not correlate well with the Cox number distribution. This is interpreted as evidence that lateral, rather than diapycnal, mixing was the process mediating the exchange of properties at the boundaries of contrasting water types. In contrast to physical properties, the distribution of fluorescence showed relatively less structure in the surface layer between the ring and Gulf Stream front. In the surface layers of the two streamers the pigment and bacterial biomass, and the diatom species composition, were typical of Slope water communities. We hypothesize that small-scale mixing processes concentrated at the boundaries of the streamers were the mechanism by which Slope water plankton were seeded into streamers of different hydrographic origins. Presumably, high netplankton growth rates allowed the Slope water species to dominate the communities in the streamers.
Document Type: Research Article
Publication date: September 1, 1994
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