The Role of Wind Stress in Driving the Along-Shelf Flow in the Northwest Atlantic Ocean
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The Role of Wind Stress in Driving the Along-Shelf Flow in the Northwest Atlantic Ocean

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  • Journal Title:
    Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans
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    The along-shelf circulation in the Northwest Atlantic (NWA) Ocean is characterized by an equatorward flow from Greenland's south coast to Cape Hatters. The mean flow is considered to be primarily forced by freshwater discharges from rivers and glaciers while its variability is driven by both freshwater fluxes and wind stress. In this study, we hypothesize and test that the wind stress is important for the mean along-shelf flow. A two-layer model with realistic topography when forced by wind stress alone simulates a circulation system on the NWA shelves that is broadly consistent with that derived from observations, including an equatorward flow from Greenland coast to the Mid-Atlantic Bight (MAB). The along-shelf sea-level gradient is close to a previous estimate based on observations. The along-shelf flows exhibit strong seasonal variations with along-shelf transports being strong in fall/winter and weak in spring/summer, consistent with available observations. It is found that the NWA shelf circulation is affected by both wind-driven gyres through their western boundary currents and wind-stress forcing on the shelf especially along the coasts of Newfoundland and Labrador. The local wind stress forcing has more direct impacts on flows in shallower waters along the coast while the open-ocean gyres tend to affect the circulations along the outer shelf. Our conclusion is that wind stress is an important forcing of the main along-shelf flows in the NWA. One objective of this study is to motivate further examination of whether wind stress is as important as freshwater forcing for the mean flow.
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    Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans, 126(4)
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