Earth Institute Research Projects

Collaborative Research: Completing a 10-Year Record of Deep Western Boundary Current Observations at Line W; A Contribution to the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation Study

Lead PI: Dr. William Massie Smethie

Unit Affiliation: Geochemistry, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory (LDEO)

March 2014 - February 2018
Atlantic Ocean
Project Type: Research

DESCRIPTION: Overview: Over the last decade, a growing international research effort has focused attention on the physical state of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), including its climatically-vital transports of heat, mass and tracers, and the causes and consequences of its variability. Begun in 2004, the Line W program - moored and shipboard measurements of the equatorward-flowing Deep Western Boundary Current (DWBC) and poleward-flowing Gulf Stream along an altimeter track between New England and Bermuda has acquired a remarkable 10-year time series of this component of the AMOC. The goals of this project are to conduct a final Line W cruise to recover the current meter array presently in the water and reoccupy the hydrographic section, to process the recovered sensor data to final form and refurbish the sea-going equipment, and to complete the scientific analysis of the Line W data set in conjunction with fellow AMOC investigators. Intellectual Merit: Property and transport time series generated by several AMOC programs are now approaching or exceeding a decade in length and are starting to provide truly unprecedented views of the AMOC's structure, strength and variability. Synthesizing these results and combining them with state estimate models will undoubtedly result in improved understanding of the mechanics, dynamics and impacts of AMOC variability. Key foci of this project?s analysis effort include careful quantification of the local variability at Line W, estimating variations in net (coast-to-coast) meridional transport of selected water masses by combining Line W observations with interior-ocean data and via models, and investigating the meridional coherence of water property anomalies and AMOC fluctuations by comparing Line-W observations with water property observations and AMOC estimates at other latitudes. Broader Impacts: A graduate student in the MIT/WHOI Joint Program will be funded to complete her Ph.D. thesis that will be based on Line W. As in past years, several students and/or postdocs will be involved in the final Line W cruise to gain hands-on experience with hydrographic sampling procedures and physical oceanographic mooring work. In this analysis and synthesis project, the original Line W investigators are entraining a new junior scientist into the research effort. This will introduce the investigator to new observational practices and associated data reduction and analysis procedures while bringing new expertise and viewpoints to the study. It is absolutely critical to observational physical oceanography that young investigators become fully versed in modern observational methods. The project's investigators will additionally continue to showcase Line W in public outreach events as a demonstration of ocean science and climate variation studies. Beyond these human elements, the Line W program is continuing to serve as a testbed for several emerging ocean measurement technologies and associated data processing procedures.


National Science Foundation (NSF)





J.N. Smith, W.M. Smethie Jr., I. Yashayev, R. Curry, K. Azetsu-Scott. "Time series measurements of transient tracers and tracer derived transport in the Deep Western Boundary Current between the Labrador Sea and the subtropical Atlantic Ocean at Line W," Journal of Geophysical Research - Oceans, v.121, 2016, p. 8115. doi:doi:10.1002/2116JC011759

M. Andres, J.M. Toole, D. Torres, W.M. Smethie, T.M. Joyce, R.G. Curry. "Stirring by Deep Cyclones and the Evolution of Denmark Strait Overflow Water Observed at Line W," Deep Sea Research I, v.109, 2016, p. 10.

M.Holzer, W.M. Smethie, Jr., Y.-H. Ting. "Ventilation of the Subtropical North Atlantic: Locations and Times of Last Ventilation Estimated Using Tracer Constraints From GEOTRACES Section GA03," Journal of Geophysical Research-Oceans, v.123, 2018, p. 2332. doi:DOI:10.1002/2017JC013698


deep western boundary current line w atlantic meridional overturning circulation