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Multidecadal-Scale Freshening at the Salinity Minimum in the Western Part of North Pacific: Importance of Wind-Driven Cross-Gyre Transport of Subarctic Water to the Subtropical Gyre

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  • 1 Institute of Low Temperature Science, Hokkaido University, Sapporo, Hokkaido, Japan
  • | 2 Meteorological College, Kashiwa, Chiba, Japan
  • | 3 Japan Meteorological Agency, Tokyo, Tokyo, Japan
  • | 4 Institute of Low Temperature Science, Hokkaido University, Sapporo, Hokkaido, Japan
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Abstract

Using oceanographic observations and an eddy-resolving ice–ocean coupled model simulation from 1955 to 2004, the effects of the wind-driven ocean circulation change that occurred in the late 1970s during multidecadal-scale freshening of the North Pacific Intermediate Water (NPIW) at salinity minimum density (~26.8 σθ) were investigated. An analysis of the observations revealed that salinity decreased significantly at the density range of 26.6–26.8 σθ in the western subtropical gyre, including the mixed water region (MWR). The temporal variability of the salinity is dominated by the marked change in the late 1970s. With results similar to the observations, the model, selectively forced by the interannual variability of the wind-driven ocean circulation, simulated significant freshening of the intermediate layer over the subtropical gyre. The significant freshening is related to the increase in southward transport of the Oyashio associated with the intensification of the Aleutian low. Accompanying these changes, the intrusion of fresh and low potential vorticity water, originating in the Okhotsk Sea, to the MWR increased, and the freshening signal propagated farther southward in the western subtropical gyre during the subsequent 6 yr, crossing the Kuroshio Extension. These results indicate that the multidecadal-scale freshening of the NPIW is partly caused by intensification of the wind-driven cross-gyre transport of the subarctic water to the subtropical gyre.

Corresponding author address: Takuya Nakanowatari, Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology, 2-15 Natsushima-cho, Yokosuka, 237-0061, Japan. E-mail: nakanow@jamstec.go.jp

This article is included in the Climate Implications of Frontal Scale Air–Sea Interaction Special Collection.

Abstract

Using oceanographic observations and an eddy-resolving ice–ocean coupled model simulation from 1955 to 2004, the effects of the wind-driven ocean circulation change that occurred in the late 1970s during multidecadal-scale freshening of the North Pacific Intermediate Water (NPIW) at salinity minimum density (~26.8 σθ) were investigated. An analysis of the observations revealed that salinity decreased significantly at the density range of 26.6–26.8 σθ in the western subtropical gyre, including the mixed water region (MWR). The temporal variability of the salinity is dominated by the marked change in the late 1970s. With results similar to the observations, the model, selectively forced by the interannual variability of the wind-driven ocean circulation, simulated significant freshening of the intermediate layer over the subtropical gyre. The significant freshening is related to the increase in southward transport of the Oyashio associated with the intensification of the Aleutian low. Accompanying these changes, the intrusion of fresh and low potential vorticity water, originating in the Okhotsk Sea, to the MWR increased, and the freshening signal propagated farther southward in the western subtropical gyre during the subsequent 6 yr, crossing the Kuroshio Extension. These results indicate that the multidecadal-scale freshening of the NPIW is partly caused by intensification of the wind-driven cross-gyre transport of the subarctic water to the subtropical gyre.

Corresponding author address: Takuya Nakanowatari, Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology, 2-15 Natsushima-cho, Yokosuka, 237-0061, Japan. E-mail: nakanow@jamstec.go.jp

This article is included in the Climate Implications of Frontal Scale Air–Sea Interaction Special Collection.

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