Deep Convection in the Labrador Sea

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The Labrador Sea is a region of the North Atlantic where winter surface cooling promotes deep convection events and with them the formation of Labrador Sea Water. Understanding the formation of this water mass is very important since Labrador Sea Water is the upper constituent of the North Atlantic Deep Water, which makes up the lower limb of the Atlantic thermohaline circulation.

Since the Labrador Sea Water is well mixed and therefore weakly stratified, it can be detected by the stratification parameter, which gives a measure of the degree of vertical homogeneity.

The animation shows the simulated time evolution of the stratification parameter during the winter (January-April) of 2010, (above) in a vertical section crossing the Labrador Sea in the west and (below) on a constant depth level (at 750 meters). The dark blue colored regions correspond to low stratification and show where in the Labrador Sea small irregular and localized deep convection events occur and therefore where the Labrador Sea Water formation takes place. The pathway of Labrador Sea Water export to the south along the continental slope off Canada can also be appreciated.