National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration
United States Department of Commerce


FY 2008

The formation rate of North Atlantic Deep Water and Eighteen Degree Water calculated from CFC-11 inventories observed during WOCE

LeBel, D.A., W.M. Smethie, Jr., M. Rhein, D. Kieke, R.A. Fine, J.L. Bullister, D.-H. Min, W. Roether, R.F. Weiss, C. Andrié, D. Smythe-Wright, and E.P. Jones

Deep-Sea Res. I, 55(8), 891–910, doi: 10.1016/j.dsr.2008.03.009 (2008)

The accumulation of man-made chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) in subsurface water masses is directly related to their formation rate, and the water mass formation rate can be calculated from its CFC inventory. CFC-11 inventories between 65°N and 10°S in the Atlantic Ocean have been calculated for Eighteen Degree Water (EDW) and the components of North Atlantic Deep Water (NADW) from data collected primarily between 1996 and 1998 as part of the World Ocean Circulation Experiment (WOCE). CFC- 11 inventories for individual water masses are 5.4 million moles for EDW, 10.5 million moles for Upper Labrador Sea Water (ULSW) (4.6 million moles south of 42°N), 23.4 million moles for Classical Labrador Sea Water (CLSW), 10.4 million moles for Iceland-Scotland Overflow Water (ISOW), and 8.3 million moles for Denmark Strait Overflow Water (DSOW). The estimated error for these inventories is about ±10%. The sum of the NADW components (ULSW, CLSW, ISOW, DSOW) is 53.2 million moles which is about half of the total CFC-11 inventory, 103.8 million moles, in the North Atlantic Ocean. Maps of water column inventories illustrate the formation mechanisms and spreading pathways within these water masses. The inventories directly reflect the input of newly formed water in the North Atlantic over the time scale of the CFC transient, about 3 decades. The interior regions of the North Atlantic contain most (75–80%) of the CFC-11 inventory in NADW indicating strong recirculation and mixing of newly formed NADWfrom the DWBC into the interior with a time scale of 2–3 decades. Average water mass formation rates between 1970 and 1997 are: 3.3 Sv for EDW, 3.5 Sv for ULSW (2.0 Sv from the central Labrador Sea and 1.5 Sv from the southern Labrador Sea), 8.2 Sv for CLSW, 5.7 Sv for ISOW, and 2.2 Sv for DSOW. Estimated errors are ±20% for CLSW and ±16% for the other water masses. The total for NADW, which forms the deep limb of the North Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation, is 19.6 Sv. An extensive test of the effects of temporal variability on the average formation rate calculated from the CFC inventory indicates that the error introduced by the assumption of a constant water mass formation rate is no greater than 15% for CLSW and 10% for the other water masses.

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