Abstract

The main deep water masses present at the time of the CSS Hudson cruises in Labrador and Irminger seas in June 1990 and October–November 1991 have been identified using characteristic temperatures (T) and salinities (S). The purpose of this study was to establish the transfer functions between micropaleontological assemblages of top sediments and thermohaline characteristics of water masses. The water mass at the top of the Labrador Sea (Labrador Sea Water, LSW) is formed after intense movements of winter convection in the first 900-m depth of the water column. Below that depth, the LSW parameters reach a double minimum (S ≈ 34.80 and T ≈ 2.9 °C). Only the sediments located on the continental slopes of Greenland and Labrador between depths of 500 and 1500 m are in contact with the LSW. Below the LSW, the superior fraction of the North East Atlantic Deep Water (NEADW1) is characterized by a temperature maximum (≈ 3.3 °C) and, as such, is distinguishable from the inferior fraction (NEADW2). The latter is characterized by a maximum S (≈ 34, 90) when compared with other intermediary and deep water masses. In contrast to the NEADW1 that freely circulates over the Reykjanes Ridge, the NEADW2 must flow through the Charlie Gibbs Fracture Zone to go from the northeastern Atlantic to the Irminger Sea. The NEADW 1 and 2 respectively bathe the ridge section less than 2000 m deep and the European abyssal basins. On the contrary, the majority of the deep sediments of the Labrador and Irminger seas are in contact with the cold (T < 2.6 °C) and salty (≈ 34.85) Denmark Strait Overflow Water. Although this water mass is normally found at depths exceeding 2700 m in pelagic environments, it can be found at less than 2000-m depth on the bottom of the continental slopes of Greenland and Labrador, where it is carried by the strong Deep Northern Boundary Current and Western Boundary Undercurrent. The presence of the NEADW 1 and 2 on the sediments is then restricted to narrow bands on the same continental slopes, between depths of 1800 and 2200 m.

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