Kuroshio Extension Variability and Forcing of the Pacific Decadal Oscillations: Responses and Potential Feedback

Bo Qiu Department of Oceanography, University of Hawaii at Manoa, Honolulu, Hawaii

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Abstract

A forcing mechanism is sought for the large-scale circulation changes in the Kuroshio Extension region of the western North Pacific Ocean as inferred by TOPEX/Poseidon sea surface height (SSH) data. The low-frequency signal of the Kuroshio Extension over the last decade was characterized by a modulation in its zonal mean flow intensity: the mean Kuroshio Extension jet weakened progressively from 1993 to 1996 and this trend reversed after 1997. The ability to simulate the major trends in the observed SSH signals with linear vorticity dynamics leads the authors to conclude that the modulation in the zonal mean jet was remotely forced by wind stress curl anomalies in the eastern North Pacific Ocean related to the Pacific decadal oscillations (PDOs). To be specific, the weakening (strengthening) trend in 1993–96 (1997–2001) was caused by westward expansions of negative (positive) SSH anomalies south of the Kuroshio Extension and positive (negative) SSH anomalies north of the Kuroshio Extension. Emergence of oppositely signed SSH anomalies on the two sides of the Kuroshio Extension jet is due to the different propagating speeds of the baroclinic Rossby waves, which carry the wind-induced SSH anomalies generated in the eastern North Pacific at different phases of the PDOs. Hindcasting the Kuroshio Extension jet strength over the last 45 years reveals that the jet modulation has a dominant timescale of ∼12 yr. Given the location of the Kuroshio Extension jet relative to the maximum atmospheric forcing, it is found that this dominant timescale is consistent with the preferred timescale under a stochastic white-noise atmospheric forcing. It is hypothesized that this connection between the Kuroshio Extension strength and the latitudinally dependent baroclinic adjustment contributes to an increase in variance and persistence of the North Pacific midlatitude coupled system on the decadal timescale.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Bo Qiu, Department of Oceanography, University of Hawaii at Manoa, 1000 Pope Road, Honolulu, HI 96822. bo@soest.hawaii.edu

Abstract

A forcing mechanism is sought for the large-scale circulation changes in the Kuroshio Extension region of the western North Pacific Ocean as inferred by TOPEX/Poseidon sea surface height (SSH) data. The low-frequency signal of the Kuroshio Extension over the last decade was characterized by a modulation in its zonal mean flow intensity: the mean Kuroshio Extension jet weakened progressively from 1993 to 1996 and this trend reversed after 1997. The ability to simulate the major trends in the observed SSH signals with linear vorticity dynamics leads the authors to conclude that the modulation in the zonal mean jet was remotely forced by wind stress curl anomalies in the eastern North Pacific Ocean related to the Pacific decadal oscillations (PDOs). To be specific, the weakening (strengthening) trend in 1993–96 (1997–2001) was caused by westward expansions of negative (positive) SSH anomalies south of the Kuroshio Extension and positive (negative) SSH anomalies north of the Kuroshio Extension. Emergence of oppositely signed SSH anomalies on the two sides of the Kuroshio Extension jet is due to the different propagating speeds of the baroclinic Rossby waves, which carry the wind-induced SSH anomalies generated in the eastern North Pacific at different phases of the PDOs. Hindcasting the Kuroshio Extension jet strength over the last 45 years reveals that the jet modulation has a dominant timescale of ∼12 yr. Given the location of the Kuroshio Extension jet relative to the maximum atmospheric forcing, it is found that this dominant timescale is consistent with the preferred timescale under a stochastic white-noise atmospheric forcing. It is hypothesized that this connection between the Kuroshio Extension strength and the latitudinally dependent baroclinic adjustment contributes to an increase in variance and persistence of the North Pacific midlatitude coupled system on the decadal timescale.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Bo Qiu, Department of Oceanography, University of Hawaii at Manoa, 1000 Pope Road, Honolulu, HI 96822. bo@soest.hawaii.edu

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