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Decadal changes in the South Pacific western boundary current system revealed in observations and ocean state estimates


Hill, KL and Rintoul, SR and Ridgway, KR and Oke, PR, Decadal changes in the South Pacific western boundary current system revealed in observations and ocean state estimates, Journal of Geophysical Research, 116, (C1) Article C01009. ISSN 0148-0227 (2011) [Refereed Article]

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Copyright Statement

Copyright 2011 American Geophysical Union

DOI: doi:10.1029/2009JC005926


Observations and ocean state estimates are used to investigate the nature and mechanism of decadal variability in the East Australian Current (EAC) system and South Pacific subtropical gyre. A 62 year record on the Tasmanian continental shelf shows decadal variations of temperature and salinity, as well as a long-term trend, which has been related to wind-driven variations in the poleward extension of the EAC. Repeat expendable bathythermograph lines spanning the last 15 years suggest that low-frequency variations in the transport of the EAC extension and Tasman Front are anticorrelated, but the time series are too short to draw firm conclusions. Here we use two ocean state estimates spanning the past 50 years to diagnose the physical mechanisms and spatial structure of the decadal variability of the South Pacific subtropical gyre. The observations and state estimates paint a consistent picture of the decadal variability of the gyre and EAC system. Strengthening of the basin-wide wind stress curl drives a southward expansion of the subtropical gyre. As the gyre shifts south, the EAC extension pathway is favored at the expense of the Tasman Front, resulting in the observed anticorrelation of the these two major currents. The results suggest that the subtropical gyre and western boundary current respond to decadal variability in basin-scale wind stress curl, consistent with Island Rule dynamics; that strong decadal variability of the South Pacific gyre complicates efforts to infer trends from short-term records; and that wind stress curl changes over the South Pacific basin drive changes in the EAC system that are likely to have implications for marine ecosystems and regional climate.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Research Division:Earth Sciences
Research Group:Oceanography
Research Field:Physical oceanography
Objective Division:Environmental Management
Objective Group:Marine systems and management
Objective Field:Measurement and assessment of marine water quality and condition
UTAS Author:Hill, KL (Ms Katrina Hill)
UTAS Author:Rintoul, SR (Dr Steve Rintoul)
ID Code:78071
Year Published:2011
Web of Science® Times Cited:72
Deposited By:IMAS Research and Education Centre
Deposited On:2012-06-13
Last Modified:2017-11-01

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