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Journal Article

Sampling-Dependent Transition Paths of Iceland–Scotland Overflow Water


Beron-Vera,  F. J.
External Organizations;

Olascoaga,  M. J.
External Organizations;


Helfmann,  Luzie
Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research;

Miron,  P.
External Organizations;

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Beron-Vera, F. J., Olascoaga, M. J., Helfmann, L., Miron, P. (2023): Sampling-Dependent Transition Paths of Iceland–Scotland Overflow Water. - Journal of Physical Oceanography, 53, 4, 1151-1160.

Cite as: https://publications.pik-potsdam.de/pubman/item/item_28976
In this note, we apply transition path theory (TPT) from Markov chains to shed light on the problem of Iceland–Scotland Overflow Water (ISOW) equatorward export. A recent analysis of observed trajectories of submerged floats demanded revision of the traditional abyssal circulation theory, which postulates that ISOW should steadily flow along a deep boundary current (DBC) around the subpolar North Atlantic prior to exiting it. The TPT analyses carried out here allow attention to be focused on the portions of flow from the origin of ISOW to the region where ISOW exits the subpolar North Atlantic and suggest that insufficient sampling may be biasing the aforementioned demand. The analyses, appropriately adapted to represent a continuous input of ISOW, are carried out on three time-homogeneous Markov chains modeling the ISOW flow. One is constructed using a high number of simulated trajectories homogeneously covering the flow domain. The other two use much fewer trajectories which heterogeneously cover the domain. The trajectories in the latter two chains are observed trajectories or simulated trajectories subsampled at the observed frequency. While the densely sampled chain supports a well-defined DBC, whether this is a peculiarity of the simulation considered or not, the more heterogeneously sampled chains do not, irrespective of the nature of the trajectories used, i.e., observed or simulated. Studying the sampling sensitivity of the Markov chains, we can give recommendations for enlarging the existing float dataset to improve the significance of conclusions about long-time-asymptotic aspects of the ISOW circulation.