Multidecadal change of the South Pacific gyre circulation

TitleMultidecadal change of the South Pacific gyre circulation
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2016
AuthorsRoemmich D., Gilson J., Sutton P., Zilberman N.
JournalJournal of Physical Oceanography
Date Published2016/06
Type of ArticleArticle
ISBN Number0022-3670
Accession NumberWOS:000377993100004
KeywordsArgo; Atmosphere-ocean interaction; circulation; climate; cycle intensification; dynamics; In situ oceanic observations; Mass fluxes; Observational techniques and algorithms; Ocean circulation; ocean salinities; oceanic; Profilers; transport; variability

Multidecadal trends in ocean heat and freshwater content are well documented, but much less evidence exists of long-term changes in ocean circulation. Previously, a 12-yr increase, 1993 to 2004, in the circulation of the South Pacific Subtropical Gyre interior was described. That analysis was based on differences between early Argo and 1990s hydrographic data and changes in sea surface height. Here, it is shown that the trend of increasing circulation continues through 2014, with some differences within the Argo decade (2005 to 2014). Patterns that indicate or are consistent with increasing equatorward transport in the eastern portion of the South Pacific Gyre are seen in Argo temperature and steric height, Argo trajectory velocity, altimetric sea surface height, sea surface temperature, sea level pressure, and wind stress. Between 2005 and 2014 the geostrophic circulation across 35 degrees S, from 160 degrees W to South America, was enhanced by 5 Sv (1 Sv 10(6) m(3) s(-1)) of added northward flow. This was countered by a southward transport anomaly between the date line and 160 degrees W. Corresponding temperature trends span the full 2000-m depth range of Argo observations. The 22-yr trend, 1993 to 2014, in sea surface height at 35 degrees S, 160 degrees W is 8 cm decade(-1). Trends in sea surface temperature over 34 yr, 1981 to 2014, show a similar spatial pattern to that of sea surface height, with an increase of 0.5 degrees C decade(-1) at 35 degrees S, 160 degrees W. These multidecadal trends support the interpretation of the 40 degrees S maximum in global ocean heat gain as resulting from anomalous wind forcing and Ekman convergence.

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