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Sea level and surface current variability in the Gulf of St Lawrence from satellite altimetry

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Sea level and surface current variability in the Gulf of St Lawrence have been investigated primarily using seven years of TOPEX/Poseidon altimeter data. An orthogonal response analysis is used to derive an annual cycle from 1-s altimetric data along satellite ground tracks, while simultaneously removing aliased residual tides and dynamic signals at alias tide frequencies. An examination of tidal-frequency variability points to the need for a better tide model for detiding altimetric data in order to study shorter (than seasonal) period processes in the Gulf of St Lawrence. Annual sea level amplitudes and phase fields are constructed from the along-track analysis results using a linear interpolation procedure. The altimetric annual harmonic has a magnitude of 2-5 cm in amplitude and is highest in fall. The altimetric sea level results agree well with independent tide-gauge data at coastal stations and can be accounted for mainly by steric height. Geostrophic surface current anomalies derived from the altimetric annual sea level anomalies are then discussed in conjunction with numerical solutions from a regional hydrodynamic model. Interannual sea level change in the Gulf of St Lawrence is also investigated from both altimetry and tide-gauge data, indicating a prominent gulf-wide sea level drop around 1997, with exact timing dependent on location. The interannual sea level variability is thought to be primarily associated with the Labrador Current transport variability (via both the Strait of Belle Isle and Cabot Strait) and the south-north fluctuation of the Gulf Stream position (via Cabot Strait).

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2004-11-01

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