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Formation and Evolution of a Freshwater Plume in the Northwestern Tropical Atlantic in February 2020

Abstract : In February 2020, a 120-km-wide freshwater plume was documented by satellite and in situ observations near the Demerara Rise (7°N/54°W-56°W). It was initially stratified in the upper 10 m with a freshwater content of 2–3 m of Amazon water distributed down to 40 m. On February 2nd, ship transects indicate an inhomogeneous shelf structure with a propagating front in its midst, whereas minimum salinity close to 30 pss was observed close to the shelf break on February 5th. The salinity minimum eroded in time but was still observed 13–16 days later with 33.3 pss minimum value up to 400 km from the shelf break. At this time, the mixed layer depth was close to 20 m. The off-shelf flow lasted 10 days, contributing to a plume area extending over 100,000 km2 and associated with a 0.15 Sv (106 m3 s−1) freshwater transport. The off-shelf plume was steered northward by a North Brazil Current ring up to 12°N and then extended westward toward the Caribbean Sea. Its occurrence followed 3 days of favorable wind direction closer to the Amazon estuary, which contributed to north-westward freshwater transport on the shelf. Other such events of freshwater transport in January–March are documented since 2010 in salinity satellite products in 7 out of 10 years, and in 6 of those years, they were preceded by a change in wind direction between the Amazon estuary and the Guianas favoring the north-westward freshwater transport toward the shelf break.
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Contributor : Françoise Pinsard <>
Submitted on : Thursday, July 22, 2021 - 12:08:35 PM
Last modification on : Friday, September 3, 2021 - 3:02:12 AM


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Gilles Reverdin, Léa Olivier, G. Foltz, Sabrina Speich, J. Karstensen, et al.. Formation and Evolution of a Freshwater Plume in the Northwestern Tropical Atlantic in February 2020. Journal of Geophysical Research. Oceans, Wiley-Blackwell, 2021, 126 (4), ⟨10.1029/2020JC016981⟩. ⟨hal-03263758⟩



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