National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration
United States Department of Commerce


FY 1993

A chlorofluorocarbon section in the eastern North Atlantic

Doney, S.C., and J.L. Bullister

Deep-Sea Res., 39(11/12), 1857–1883, doi: 10.1016/0198-0149(92)90003-C (1992)

We present the distributions of two chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) CFC-11 and CFC-12, measured as part of a hydrographic section between Iceland and the equator during July and August 1988. CFC-tagged water has filled the entire subpolar water column and subtropical thermocline in the eastern North Atlantic. Measurable CFC concentrations are observed at the ocean bottom as far south as 35°N, and the CFC penetration depth shoals to ~750 m in the tropics. Specific features in the CFC distributions include a clear signal of Labrador Sea mid-depth ventilation, a CFC-enriched overflow water boundary current along the Iceland slope, and a middepth, equatorial plume of upper North Atlantic Water. The CFC data are used, in conjunction with the hydrographic data from the cruise, to illustrate the ventilation time-scales and pathways for the water masses in the eastern basin. A subsurface CFC maximum at about 100-200 m depth in the subtropics is shown to be a by-product of the heating and degassing of the seasonal thermocline and of the temperature sensitivity of CFC solubility. The CFC concentrations in the subpolar mode water are undersaturated by 15-18% relative to the atmosphere, reflecting the age of the mode waters and the very deep winter mixed layers in the eastern subpolar gyre. The CFC concentrations in the oxygen minimum off tropical Africa are much lower than the concentrations in the subtropical gyre, supporting previous work that suggests that isolation and enhanced productivity both contribute to the formation of the tropical oxygen minimum. In addition, the CFC inventories at the tropical stations have increased between 1982 and 1983 (TTO/TAS) and the summer of 1988 at a slower rate relative to the subtropical inventories over the same period. Thermocline oxygen utilization rates calculated from the CFC concentration data range from 5 to 10 µmol kg y and are in line with previous estimates for the eastern subtropical thermocline. The low CFC concentrations in Mediterranean Water, about one-quarter those in the Labrador Sea Water, are shown to result from entrainment near the Straits of Gibralter of a large component of low CFC, lower Atlantic thermocline water. Based on the CFC and other transient tracer distributions, the deep eastern basin can be divided into two regions: the Iceland Basin and surrounding area influenced by Iceland-Scotland Overflow Water that is ventilated on a decadal time-scale, and the area south of ~50°N that has little or no CFC and is ventilated from a southern source on a much longer time-scale. A northward flowing boundary current of low CFC, modified Eastern Basin Bottom Water is also found along the Rockall Plateau and in the Iceland Basin.

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