Assessment of oceanographic conditions during the North Atlantic EXport processes in the ocean from RemoTe sensing (EXPORTS) field campaign

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This manuscript presents an overview of NASA's EXport Processes in the Ocean from Remote Sensing 2021 Field Campaign in the North Atlantic (EXPORTS NA) and provides quantitative and dynamical descriptions of the physical processes modulating water transformations during the study. A major programmatic goal was to conduct the sampling in a Lagrangian mode so that ocean ecological and biogeochemical changes can be observed independent from physical advective processes. To accomplish this goal, EXPORTS NA conducted a multi-ship, multi-asset field sampling program within a retentive, anticyclonic mode water eddy. Beneath depths of ∼ 100 m, Lagrangian sampling assets remained within the eddy core waters (ECWs) throughout the experiment, demonstrating that the ECWs within the mode water eddy were retentive. However, strong westerly winds from four storm events deepened the mixed layer (ML) of the surface core waters (SCWs) above the eddy's mode water core by 25–40 m and exchanged some of the SCWs with surface waters outside of the eddy via Ekman transport. Estimates of flushing times ranged from 5 to 8 days, with surface exchange fractions ranging from 20 to 75 % and were consistent with particle tracking advected by combined geostrophic and Ekman velocities. The relative contributions of horizontal and vertical advection on changes in ECW tracers depended on the horizontal and vertical gradients of that tracer. For example, horizontal advection played a large role in ECW salinity fluxes, while vertical entrainment played a larger role in the fluxes of nutrients into SCW ML. Each storm injected nutrients and low oxygen waters into the ML, after which the surface ocean ecosystem responded by reducing nutrient concentrations and increasing %O2 saturation levels. Overall, ECW values of chlorophyll and POC were the largest at the onset of the field program and decreased throughout the campaign. The analysis presented provides a physical oceanographic context for the many measurements made during the EXPORTS NA field campaign while illustrating the many challenges of conducting a production-flux experiment, even in a Lagrangian frame, and the inherent uncertainties of interpreting biological carbon pump observations that were collected in a Eulerian frame of reference.

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Progress in Oceanography