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Free Content A transatlantic section at 14.5N: Meridional volume and heat fluxes

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Two high-resolution hydrographic sections occupied during February, March 1989 in the western and eastern basins of the North Atlantic at 14.5N are combined to study the water mass structure and meridional mass and heat transports. Absolute velocities were determined using these data and an earlier section at 8N in a linear inverse analysis. Mass balance for several layers representing the main water masses in the region and a zero net divergence for the sum of geostrophic and Ekman transport between the two sections are assumed. Using the annual mean of Ekman transports (13.6 Sv, 14.5N), (15.2 Sv, 8N) based on the climatology by Isemer and Hasse (1985) the annual average fluxes for the sections at 8N and 14.5N have been calculated. For the annual mean the strength of the meridional overturning cell at 14.5N amounts to 15.9 Sv with an associated heat transport of 1.22 PW. A similar value can be obtained at 8N where the annual mean heat transport reaches 1.18 PW and the overturning cell measures 15 Sv. The total northward heat transport is strongly dominated by the wind-driven Ekman heat transport.

In-situ’ values of heat transport using the actual wind-driven transports for the respective months yield even higher estimates. Heat transport at 14.5N rises to 1.37 ± 0.42 PW (February) and the maximum is now at the 8N section, 1.69 ± 0.52 PW (May).

Comparisons of our results with another tropical section at 11N occupied concurrently demonstrate the large variability in heat transport related to changes in the wind field. Due to extremely weak winds in the eastern Atlantic and a resulting low Ekman transport, the ‘in-situ’ value of heat transport through this section ranged between 0.30 ± 0.18 PW and 0.59 ± 0.18 PW depending on the value chosen for the Ekman transport. The lower of the two heat transport estimates results from calculations with the actual observed winds and the other using a monthly climatological mean. That even the computations with the climatological monthly mean give such a low heat transport points to additional changes in the baroclinic structures between 11N and 14.5N.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 November 1995

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  • The Journal of Marine Research publishes peer-reviewed research articles covering a broad array of topics in physical, biological and chemical oceanography. Articles that deal with processes, as well as those that report significant observations, are welcome. In the area of biology, studies involving coupling between ecological and physical processes are preferred over those that report systematics. Authors benefit from thorough reviews of their manuscripts, where an attempt is made to maximize clarity. The time between submission and publication is kept to a minimum; there is no page charge.
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