Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the UK

Research Article

Ocean structure and climate (Eastern North Atlantic): in situ measurement and remote sensing (altimeter)

Robin  Pingree a1a2c1
a1 Institute of Marine Studies, University of Plymouth, Drake Circus, Plymouth, PL4 8AA, UK
a2 Marine Biological Association, The Laboratory, Citadel Hill, Plymouth, PL1 2PB, UK
c1 E-mail:


Structure and climate of the east North Atlantic are appraised within a framework of in situ measurement and altimeter remote sensing from 0°–60°N. Long zonal expendable bathythermograph/conductivity–temperature–depth probe sections show repeating internal structure in the North Atlantic Ocean. Drogued buoys and subsurface floats give westward speeds for eddies and wavelike structure. Records from longterm current meter deployments give the periodicity of the repeating structure. Eddy and wave characteristics of period, size or wavelength, westward propagation speed, and mean currents are derived at 20°N, 26°N, 32·5°N, 36°N and 48°N from in situ measurements in the Atlantic Ocean. It is shown that ocean wave and eddy-like features measured in situ correlate with altimeter structure. Interior ocean wave crests or cold dome-like temperature structures are cyclonic and have negative surface altimeter anomalies; mesoscale internal wave troughs or warm structures are anticyclonic and have positive surface height anomalies. Along the Eastern Boundary, flows and temperature climate are examined in terms of sla and North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) Index. Longterm changes in ocean climate and circulation are derived from sla data. It is shown that longterm changes from 1992 to 2002 in the North Atlantic Current and the Subtropical Gyre transport determined from sla data correlate with winter NAO Index such that maximum flow conditions occurred in 1995 and 2000. Minimum circulation conditions occurred between 1996–1998. Years of extreme negative winter NAO Index result in enhanced poleward flow along the Eastern Boundary and anomalous winter warming along the West European Continental Slope as was measured in 1990, 1996, 1998 and 2001.

(Received January 29 2002)
(Accepted July 31 2002)