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Constraining Wind Stress Products with Sea Surface Height Observations and Implications for Pacific Ocean Sea Level Trend Attribution

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  • 1 Climate Change Research Centre, University of New South Wales, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
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Abstract

A number of global surface wind datasets are available that are commonly used to examine climate variability or trends and as boundary conditions for ocean circulation models. However, discrepancies exist among these products. This study uses observed Archiving, Validation, and Interpretation of Satellite Oceanographic (AVISO) sea surface height anomalies (SSHAs) as a means to help constrain the fidelity of these products in the tropical region. Each wind stress product is used to force a linear shallow water model (SWM) and the resulting hindcast thermocline depth anomalies are converted to SSHAs. The resulting SSHAs are then assessed to see how well they reproduce the dominant EOF modes of observed variability and the regional (global mean removed) sea level trend (1993–2007) in each of the three ocean basins. While the results suggest that all wind datasets reproduce the observed interannual variability with reasonable fidelity, the two SWM hindcasts that produce the observed linear trend with the highest fidelity are those incorporating interim ECMWF Re-Analysis (ERA-Interim) and Wave- and Anemometer-Based Sea Surface Wind (WASWind) forcing. The role of surface wind forcing (i.e., upper ocean heat content redistribution) versus global mean sea level change (i.e., including the additional contributions of glacier and ice sheet melt along with ocean thermal expansion) on the recent dramatic increase in western equatorial Pacific island sea level is then reassessed. The results suggest that the recent sea level increase cannot be explained solely by wind stress forcing, regardless of the dataset used; rather, the global mean sea level signal is required to fully explain this observed recent abrupt sea level rise and to better explain the sea level variability of the last 50–60 years.

Supplemental information related to this paper is available at the Journals Online website: http://dx.doi.org/10.1175/JCLI-D-12-00105.s1.

Corresponding author address: Shayne McGregor, Climate Change Research Centre, Level 4, Matthews Building, University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW 2052, Australia. E-mail: shayne.mcgregor@unsw.edu.au

Abstract

A number of global surface wind datasets are available that are commonly used to examine climate variability or trends and as boundary conditions for ocean circulation models. However, discrepancies exist among these products. This study uses observed Archiving, Validation, and Interpretation of Satellite Oceanographic (AVISO) sea surface height anomalies (SSHAs) as a means to help constrain the fidelity of these products in the tropical region. Each wind stress product is used to force a linear shallow water model (SWM) and the resulting hindcast thermocline depth anomalies are converted to SSHAs. The resulting SSHAs are then assessed to see how well they reproduce the dominant EOF modes of observed variability and the regional (global mean removed) sea level trend (1993–2007) in each of the three ocean basins. While the results suggest that all wind datasets reproduce the observed interannual variability with reasonable fidelity, the two SWM hindcasts that produce the observed linear trend with the highest fidelity are those incorporating interim ECMWF Re-Analysis (ERA-Interim) and Wave- and Anemometer-Based Sea Surface Wind (WASWind) forcing. The role of surface wind forcing (i.e., upper ocean heat content redistribution) versus global mean sea level change (i.e., including the additional contributions of glacier and ice sheet melt along with ocean thermal expansion) on the recent dramatic increase in western equatorial Pacific island sea level is then reassessed. The results suggest that the recent sea level increase cannot be explained solely by wind stress forcing, regardless of the dataset used; rather, the global mean sea level signal is required to fully explain this observed recent abrupt sea level rise and to better explain the sea level variability of the last 50–60 years.

Supplemental information related to this paper is available at the Journals Online website: http://dx.doi.org/10.1175/JCLI-D-12-00105.s1.

Corresponding author address: Shayne McGregor, Climate Change Research Centre, Level 4, Matthews Building, University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW 2052, Australia. E-mail: shayne.mcgregor@unsw.edu.au

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