A vertical-mode decomposition to investigate low-frequency internal motion across the Atlantic at 26° N
Abstract. Hydrographic data from full-depth moorings maintained by the Rapid/\-MOCHA project and spanning the Atlantic at 26° N are decomposed into vertical modes in order to give a dynamical framework for interpreting the observed fluctuations. Vertical modes at each mooring are fit to pressure perturbations using a Gauss-Markov inversion. Away from boundaries, the vertical structure is almost entirely described by the first baroclinic mode, as confirmed by high correlation between the original signal and reconstructions using only the first baroclinic mode. These first baroclinic motions are also highly coherent with altimetric sea surface height (SSH). Within a Rossby radius (45 km) of the western and eastern boundaries, however, the decomposition contains significant variance at higher modes, and there is a corresponding decrease in the agreement between SSH and either the original signal or the first baroclinic mode reconstruction. Compared to the full transport signal, transport fluctuations described by the first baroclinic mode represent <25 km of the variance within 10 km of the western boundary, in contrast to 60 km at other locations. This decrease occurs within a Rossby radius of the western boundary. At the eastern boundary, a linear combination of many baroclinic modes is required to explain the observed vertical density profile of the seasonal cycle, a result that is consistent with an oceanic response to wind-forcing being trapped to the eastern boundary.