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El Niño Effects and Upwelling off South Australia

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  • * South Australian Research and Development Institute, West Beach, South Australia, Australia
  • | + School of Mathematics, University of New South Wales, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
  • | # School of Mathematics, University of Adelaide, South Australia, Australia
  • | @ Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, California
  • | 5 Los Alamos National Laboratory, Los Alamos, New Mexico
  • | * *Deakin University, Warrnambool, Victoria, Australia
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Abstract

To determine the possible importance of ENSO events along the coast of South Australia, an exploratory analysis is made of meteorological and oceanographic data and output from a global ocean model. Long time series of coastal sea level and wind stress are used to show that while upwelling favorable winds have been more persistent since 1982, ENSO events (i) are largely driven by signals from the west Pacific Ocean shelf/slope waveguide and not local meteorological conditions, (ii) can account for 10-cm changes in sea level, and (iii) together with wind stress, explain 62% of the variance of annual-averaged sea level. Thus, both local winds and remote forcing from the west Pacific are likely important to the low-frequency shelf edge circulation. Evidence also suggests that, since 1983, wintertime downwelling during the onset of an El Niño is reduced and the following summertime upwelling is enhanced. In situ data show that during the 1998 and 2003 El Niño events anomalously cold (10.5°–11.5°C) water is found at depths of 60–120 m and is more than two standard deviations cooler than the mean. A regression showed that averaged sea level can provide a statistically significant proxy for these subsurface temperature changes and indicates a 2.2°C decrease in temperature for the 10-cm decrease in sea level that was driven by the 1998 El Niño event. Limited current- meter observations, long sea level records, and output from a global ocean model were also examined and provide support for the hypothesis that El Niño events substantially reduce wintertime (but not summertime) shelf-edge currents. Further research to confirm this asymmetric response and its cause is required.

Corresponding author address: John Middleton, Aquatic Sciences Centre, P.O. Box 120, Henley Beach, South Australia 5024, Australia. Email: middleton.john@saugov.sa.gov.au

Abstract

To determine the possible importance of ENSO events along the coast of South Australia, an exploratory analysis is made of meteorological and oceanographic data and output from a global ocean model. Long time series of coastal sea level and wind stress are used to show that while upwelling favorable winds have been more persistent since 1982, ENSO events (i) are largely driven by signals from the west Pacific Ocean shelf/slope waveguide and not local meteorological conditions, (ii) can account for 10-cm changes in sea level, and (iii) together with wind stress, explain 62% of the variance of annual-averaged sea level. Thus, both local winds and remote forcing from the west Pacific are likely important to the low-frequency shelf edge circulation. Evidence also suggests that, since 1983, wintertime downwelling during the onset of an El Niño is reduced and the following summertime upwelling is enhanced. In situ data show that during the 1998 and 2003 El Niño events anomalously cold (10.5°–11.5°C) water is found at depths of 60–120 m and is more than two standard deviations cooler than the mean. A regression showed that averaged sea level can provide a statistically significant proxy for these subsurface temperature changes and indicates a 2.2°C decrease in temperature for the 10-cm decrease in sea level that was driven by the 1998 El Niño event. Limited current- meter observations, long sea level records, and output from a global ocean model were also examined and provide support for the hypothesis that El Niño events substantially reduce wintertime (but not summertime) shelf-edge currents. Further research to confirm this asymmetric response and its cause is required.

Corresponding author address: John Middleton, Aquatic Sciences Centre, P.O. Box 120, Henley Beach, South Australia 5024, Australia. Email: middleton.john@saugov.sa.gov.au

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