EGU General Assembly 2022
© Author(s) 2022. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Using mixed layer heat budgets to determine the drivers of the 2015 North Atlantic cold anomaly in ocean state estimates

Rachael Sanders1, Daniel Jones1, Simon Josey2, Bablu Sinha2, and Gael Forget3
Rachael Sanders et al.
  • 1British Antarctic Survey, Cambridge, UK (
  • 2National Oceanography Centre, Southampton, UK
  • 3Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA, USA.

Record low surface temperatures were observed in the subpolar North Atlantic during 2015, despite the majority of the global ocean experiencing higher than average surface temperatures. We compute mixed layer temperature budgets in the ECCO Version 4 state estimate to further understand the processes responsible for the North Atlantic cold anomaly. We show that surface forcing was the cause of approximately 75% of the initial cooling in the winter of 2013/14, after which the cold anomaly was sequestered beneath the deep winter mixed layer. Re-emergence of the cold anomaly during the summer/autumn of 2014 was primarily driven by a strong temperature gradient across the base of the mixed layer. Vertical diffusion resulted in approximately 70% of the re-emergence, with entrainment of deeper water driving the remaining 30%. In the summer of 2015, surface warming of the mixed layer was then anomalously low, resulting in the most negative temperature anomalies. Spatial patterns in the budgets show that the initial surface cooling was strongest in the south of the region, due to strong westerly winds related to the positive phase of the East Atlantic Pattern. Subsequent anomalies in surface fluxes associated with the North Atlantic Oscillation were stronger in the north, but the impact on the average temperature of the mixed layer was largely masked by anomalously high winter mixed layer depths.

How to cite: Sanders, R., Jones, D., Josey, S., Sinha, B., and Forget, G.: Using mixed layer heat budgets to determine the drivers of the 2015 North Atlantic cold anomaly in ocean state estimates, EGU General Assembly 2022, Vienna, Austria, 23–27 May 2022, EGU22-1682,, 2022.

Comments on the display material

to access the discussion