Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the UK

Position and structure of the Subtropical/Azores Front region from combined Lagrangian and remote sensing (IR/altimeter/SeaWiFS) measurements

Robin D.  Pingree a1, Carlos  Garcia-Soto a2 and Bablu  Sinha a1
a1 Plymouth Marine Laboratory (NERC), Citadel Hill, Plymouth, PL1 2PB
a2 Instituto Español de Oceanografía (MAPA), Apartado 240, 39080 Santander, Spain


The position and structure of the North Atlantic Subtropical Front is studied using Lagrangian flow tracks and remote sensing (AVHRR imagery: TOPEX/POSEIDON altimetry: SeaWiFS) in a broad region ([similar]31° to [similar]36°N) of marked gradient of dynamic height (Azores Current) that extends from the Mid-Atlantic Ridge (MAR), near [similar]40°W, to the Eastern Boundary ([similar]10°W). Drogued Argos buoy and ALACE tracks are superposed on infrared satellite images in the Subtropical Front region. Cold (cyclonic) structures, called ‘Storms’, and warm (anticyclonic) structures of 100–300 km in size can be found on the south side of the Subtropical Front outcrop, which has a temperature contrast of about 1°C that can be followed for [similar]2500 km near 35°N. Warmer water adjacent to the outcrop is flowing eastward (Azores Current) but some warm water is returned westward about 300 km to the south (southern Counterflow). Estimates of horizontal diffusion in a Storm (D=2.2×102 m2 s−1) and in the Subtropical Front region near 200 m depth (Dx=1.3×104 m2 s−1, Dy=2.6×103 m2 s−1) are made from the Lagrangian tracks. Altimeter and in situ measurements show that Storms track westwards. Storms are separated by about 510 km and move westward at 2.7 km d−1. Remote sensing reveals that some initial structures start evolving as far east as 23°W but are more organized near 29°W and therefore Storms are about 1 year old when they reach the MAR (having travelled a distance of 1000 km). Structure and seasonality in SeaWiFS data in the region is examined.