Articles | Volume 11, issue 5
Ocean Sci., 11, 855–871, 2015
Ocean Sci., 11, 855–871, 2015

Research article 26 Oct 2015

Research article | 26 Oct 2015

On the modulation of the periodicity of the Faroe Bank Channel overflow instabilities

E. Darelius1, I. Fer1, T. Rasmussen2, C. Guo1, and K. M. H. Larsen3 E. Darelius et al.
  • 1Geophysical Institute, University of Bergen and Bjerknes Centre for Climate Research, Bergen, Norway
  • 2Danish Meteorological Institute, Copenhagen, Denmark
  • 3Havstovan, Torshavn, Faroe Islands

Abstract. The Faroe Bank Channel (FBC) is one of the major pathways where dense, cold water formed in the Nordic Seas flows southward as a bottom-attached energetic plume towards the North Atlantic. The plume region downstream of the FBC sill is characterized by high mesoscale variability, quasi-regular oscillations and intense mixing. Here, 1 year long time series of velocity and temperature from ten moorings deployed in May 2012 in the plume region are analysed to describe variability in the strength and period of the oscillations. The eddy kinetic energy (EKE) associated with the oscillations changes by a factor of 10 during the year and the dominant period of the oscillations is modulated and varies between 3 to 4 and 6 days, where the shorter-period oscillations are more energetic. The dense water is observed on a wider portion of the slope (both deeper and shallower) during periods with energetic, short-period oscillations. The observations are complemented by results from a regional, high-resolution model that shows a similar variability in EKE and a gradual change in oscillation period of between 3 and 4 days. The observed variability in oscillation period is directly linked to changes in the volume transport across the sill: the oscillation period increases from approximately 3 days to about 6 days when the transport decreases from 2.4 to 1.9 Sv. A similar relation is obtained from the model. This is in agreement with results from a linear baroclinic instability analysis, which suggests that the period increases while the growth rate decreases for decreased plume thickness. Advective effects, caused by the variable background current, further modulate the observed periodicity by up to 1 day. In addition, it is shown that about 50 % of the transport variability across the sill is explained by changes in the local sea surface height gradient.

Short summary
Quasi-regular eddies are known to be generated in the outflow of dense water through the Faroe Bank Channel. One year long mooring records from the plume region show that (1) the energy associated with the eddies varies by a factor of 10 throughout the year and (2) the frequency of the eddies shifts between 3 and 6 days and is related to the strength of the outflow. Similar variability is shown by a high-resolution regional model and the observations agree with theory on baroclinic instability.