by Doug Wallace, Dalhousie University and Brad deYoung, Memorial University
The Labrador Sea, off the east coast of Canada (see figure), is one of the few places where the deep ocean exchanges gases such as oxygen and carbon dioxide (CO2) directly with the atmosphere. Localized deep convection releases large amounts of heat to the atmosphere and the resulting Labrador Sea Water contributes to the global ocean thermohaline circulation that redistributes heat from low latitudes to the poles. Transport out of the Labrador Sea carries oxygen and anthropogenic CO2 into the North Atlantic interior, oxygenating subsurface layers and slowing the accumulation of CO2 in the atmosphere, but exacerbating ocean acidification along Canada’s sensitive eastern continental margin. The combined action of convection and horizontal circulation redistributes nutrients and contaminants (e.g. from future deepwater oil production along the deep Labrador slope) potentially affecting ocean productivity and marine ecosystem health.