National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration
United States Department of Commerce


FY 2015

Anomalous eddy heat and freshwater transport in the Gulf of Alaska

Lyman, J.M., and G.C. Johnson

J. Geophys. Res., 120(2), 1397–1408, doi: 10.1002/2014JC010252 (2015)

Characteristics of eddies in the Gulf of Alaska are assessed from January 2003 through April 2012. Ensemble statistics for eddy subsurface water properties on isopycnals are computed using temperature and salinity profiles from Argo profiling floats located within eddies, which are identified in sea-surface height using objective techniques. Ninety cyclonic and 154 anticyclonic eddies are identified during this period. The anticyclonic eddies are strongly nonlinear and exhibit significant warm subsurface temperature anomalies and associated salty anomalies on isopycnals while no clear distinguishing subsurface anomalies on isopycnals are detected in association with the cyclonic eddies. Heat and freshwater fluxes for the eddies are estimated from integrations in depth coordinates. The anticyclonic eddies transport heat both westward off the continental shelf into the Subarctic Gyre and westward within the Alaskan Stream. However, they transport salt into the Subarctic Gyre and freshwater within the Alaskan Stream. In both pathways eddy heat and freshwater transport show possible year-to-year fluctuations, varying from 0 to 50.4 × 1018 J a−1 and −16.8 to +7.4 km3 a−1, respectively. The anticyclonic eddies are capped by relatively fresh water year-round.

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