In this study, we explore the downward branch of the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC) from a perspective in depth space (Eulerian downwelling) as well as from a perspective in density space (diapycnal downwelling). Using an idealized model, we focus on the role of eddying marginal seas, where dense water is formed by deep convection due to an intense surface heat loss. We assess where diapycnal mass fluxes take place, investigate the pathways of dense water masses, and elucidate the role of eddies. We find that there are fundamental differences between the Eulerian and diapycnal downwelling: the strong Eulerian near-boundary downwelling is not associated with substantial diapycnal downwelling; the latter takes place in the interior and elsewhere in the boundary current. We show that the diapycnal downwelling appears to be more appropriate to describe the pathways of water masses. In our model, dense water masses are exported along two routes: those formed in the upper part of the boundary current are exported directly; those formed in the interior move toward the boundary along isopycnals due to eddy stirring and are then exported. This study thus reveals a complex three-dimensional view of the overturning in a marginal sea, with possible implications for our understanding of the AMOC.
- Deep convection
- Diapycnal mixing
- Meridional overturning circulation