Decadal changes along an Indian ocean section at 32 degrees S and their interpretation
Bindoff, NL and McDougall, TJ, Decadal changes along an Indian ocean section at 32 degrees S and their interpretation, Journal of Physical Oceanography, 30, (6) pp. 1207-1222. ISSN 0022-3670 (2000) [Refereed Article]
In the Indian Ocean subtropical gyre, historical temperature, salinity, and oxygen data with a median date of 1962 are compared with a hydrographic section taken at a mean latitude of 32°S in October-November 1987. Significant basinwide changes in all three hydrographic fields are observed below the mixed layer. On isobaric surfaces the main changes are (i) a warming of the upper 900 dbar of the water column with a maximum change in the sectional mean of 0.5°C, (ii) a freshening between 500 and 1500 dbar with a maximum freshening of 0.05 psu, and (iii) a pronounced decrease in oxygen concentration between 300 and 1000 dbar. Examination of water mass properties shows that very significant water mass changes have occurred. On isopycnals subantarctic mode water (SAMW) and Antarctic Intermediate Water (AAIW) have freshened and cooled. Both of these water masses are on average deeper in 1987. Using the analysis of Bindoff and McDougall (1994), the changes of temperature at constant depth and at constant density are used to show that the water mass changes can most simply be explained by a surface warming in the source region of SAMW and by increased precipitation in the source region of AAIW. The decrease in oxygen concentration can be explained simply by a slight slowing of the subtropical gyre allowing more time for biological consumption to decrease the oxygen concentration by water parcel translation from the formation area to the observation point. Estimates show that over the last 25 years there is an apparent decrease of the gyre spin rate of about 20% at the depth levels of SAMW; the estimated spin rate change decreases almost linearly with greater depth to zero at the oxygen minimum in Indian Deep Water (IDW). Below IDW the observed changes in oxygen concentration (and also the changes of temperature and salinity) are associated with the upward movement of isopycnals with no significant water mass change. The differences in temperature and salinity in the SAMW and AAIW are consistent with the relatively young age of these water masses inferred from CFC data.