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Transport and thermohaline structure in the western tropical North Pacific

  • Author(s): Schönau, Martha Coakley
  • Advisor(s): Rudnick, Daniel L
  • et al.
Abstract

Transport and thermohaline structure of water masses and their respective variability are observed and modeled in the western tropical North Pacific using autonomous underwater gliders, Argo climatology and a numerical ocean state estimate. The North Equatorial Current (NEC) advects subtropical and subpolar water masses into the region that are transported equatorward by the Mindanao Current (MC). Continuous glider observations of these two currents from June 2009 to December 2013 provide absolute geostrophic velocity, water mass structure, and transport. The observations are compared to Argo climatology (Roemmich and Gilson, 2009), wind and precipitation to assess forcing, and annual and interannual variability. Observations are assimilated into a regional ocean state estimate (1/6°) to examine regional transport variability and its relationship to the El Niño-Southern Oscillation phenomena (ENSO).

The NEC, described in Chapter 1, is observed along 134.3°E, from 8.5°N to 16.5°N. NEC thermocline transport is relatively constant, with a variable subthermocline transport that is distinguished by countercurrents centered at 9.6°N and 13.1°N. Correlation between thermocline and subthermocline transport is strong. Isopycnals with subducted water masses, the North Pacific Tropical Water and North Pacific Intermediate Water, have the greatest fine-scale thermohaline variance. The NEC advects water masses into the MC, described in Chapter 2, that flows equatorward along the coast of Mindanao. Gliders observed the MC at a mean latitude of 8.5°N. The Mindanao Undercurrent (MUC) persists in the subthermocline offshore of the MC, with a net poleward transport of intermediate water typical of South Pacific origin. The variable subthermocline transport in the MC/MUC has an inverse linear relationship with the Nino 3.4 index and strongly impacts total transport variability. For each the MC and NEC, surface salinity and thermocline depth have a strong relationship with ENSO, and there is relationship between the fine-scale and large-scale isopycnal thermohaline structure. In Chapter 3, a numerical ocean state estimates shows strong interannual variability of regional transport with ENSO. Prior to mature ENSO events, transport in each the NEC, MC and North Equatorial Counter Current (NECC) increase. The increase is from meridional gradients in isopycnal depth related to interannual wind anomalies.

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