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Formation and circulation of the cold intermediate layer in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence

Smith, G. C., Saucier, F. J. and Straub, D. (2006) Formation and circulation of the cold intermediate layer in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence. Journal of Geophysical Research, 111 (C6). Art. No. C06011. ISSN 0148-0227

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[ 1] The local heat content and formation rate of the cold intermediate layer (CIL) in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence are examined using a combination of new in situ wintertime observations and a three-dimensional numerical model. The field observations consist of five moorings located throughout the gulf over the period of November 2002 to June 2003. The observations demonstrate a substantially deeper surface mixed layer in the central and northeast gulf than in regions downstream of the buoyant surface outflow from the Saint Lawrence Estuary. The mixed-layer depth in the estuary remains shallow (< 60 m) throughout winter, with the arrival of a layer of near-freezing waters between 40 and 100 m depth in April. An eddy-permitting ice-ocean model with realistic forcing is used to hindcast the period of observation. The model simulates well the seasonal evolution of mixed-layer depth and CIL heat content. Although the greatest heat losses occur in the northeast, the most significant change in CIL heat content over winter occurs in the Anticosti Trough. The observed renewal of CIL in the estuary in spring is captured by the model. The simulation highlights the role of the northwest gulf, and in particular, the separation of the Gaspe Current, in controlling the exchange of CIL between the estuary and the gulf. In order to isolate the effects of inflow through the Strait of Belle Isle on the CIL heat content, we examine a sensitivity experiment in which the strait is closed. This simulation shows that the inflow has a less important effect on the CIL than was suggested by previous studies.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Science > School of Mathematical, Physical and Computational Sciences > Environmental Systems Science Centre
ID Code:4868
Additional Information:C06011
Publisher:American Geophysical Union

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