Observations of the Faroe Bank Channel overflow using bottom-following RAFOS floats

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Overflows do not easily lend themselves to study by Lagrangian floats that remain on a constant isobaric (pressure) or isopycnal (density) surface, since the mixing, entrainment, and descent of an overflow plume result in an increase of the pressure and typically a decrease in the density of the overflow waters. A simple technique to maintain the float's altitude above the bottom was developed, and 12 "bottom-following" RAFOS floats were deployed at or downstream of the sill in the Faroe Bank Channel in the summer of 2000 from the R.S.S. Discovery. A technical problem resulted in the majority of the floats becoming stuck to the bottom; nevertheless several floats were able to traverse the Iceland Basin and surface near the southeastern slope of Iceland. These floats made a descent from the mouth of the Faroe Bank Channel, only to shoal along the southern slope of the Iceland-Faroe Ridge before descending again when passing through the northwest corner of the Iceland Basin. Typical current speeds through the Basin were 0.20-0.30ms-1, with peaks of 0.40-0.50ms-1. Although the floats that were stuck on the bottom provided no trajectory information, they were able to provide a time-series of bottom or near-bottom temperature. In addition, a crude estimate of the flow regime could be made by interpreting the pressure signals from these stuck floats as a response to strong or weak currents. Floats that were bottom stuck near the mouth of the Channel experienced large fluctuations in temperature (0-5°C) and height of the bottom (and thus presumably speed) on scales from 1 to 4 days. Another float stuck 100 km downstream of the sill underwent temperature and speed excursions on similar time scales, albeit over a smaller range. The behavior of the floats is assumed to be the result of the mesoscale variability of the overflow plume downstream of the Faroe Bank Channel. © 2005 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

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Deep-Sea Research Part II: Topical Studies in Oceanography