AbstractExamination of a range of salinity products collectively suggests widespread freshening of the North Atlantic from the mid-2000s to the present. Monthly salinity fields reveal negative trends that differ in magnitude and significance between western and eastern regions of the North Atlantic. These differences can be attributed to the large negative interannual excursions in salinity in the western subpolar gyre and the Labrador Sea, which are not apparent in the central or eastern subpolar gyre. This study demonstrates that temporal trends in salinity in the northwest (including the Labrador Sea) are subject to mechanisms that are distinct from those responsible for the salinity trends in the central and eastern North Atlantic. In the western subpolar gyre a negative correlation between near-surface salinity and the circulation strength of the subpolar gyre suggests that negative salinity anomalies are connected to an intensification of the subpolar gyre, which is causing increased flux of freshwater from the East Greenland Current and subsequent transport into the Labrador Sea during the melting season. Analyses of sea surface wind fields suggest that the strength of the subpolar gyre is linked to the North Atlantic Oscillation– and Arctic Oscillation–driven changes in wind stress curl in the eastern subpolar gyre. If this trend of decreasing salinity continues, it has the potential to enhance water column stratification, reduce vertical fluxes of nutrients, and cause a decline in biological production and carbon export in the North Atlantic Ocean.
Journal of Climate – American Meteorological Society
Published: Apr 9, 2018
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