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C. O. Dufour, J. Le Sommer, T. Penduff, B. Barnier, and M. H. England


The subsurface variability of potential temperature and salinity south of Australia along 130°E is studied over a 25-yr period (1980–2004). The study is done with fields provided by a global eddy-permitting model of the DRAKKAR project forced by atmospheric reanalysis. The analysis performed by C. Sun and D. R. Watts with in situ hydrographic data is repeated. Sun and Watts have investigated the EOF modes in streamfunction space along the World Ocean Circulation Experiment (WOCE) SR3 section. In particular, they found that an EOF mode, which they called the “pulsation mode,” strongly dominates subsurface thermohaline variations. Here, it is found that, in the model, an EOF mode with spatial structure similar to the Sun and Watts pulsation mode dominates subsurface thermohaline variations in streamfunction space. The mode displays a maximum of variability at the Subantarctic Front (SAF) between Subantarctic Mode Water (SAMW) and Antarctic Intermediate Water (AAIW). The associated time series exhibits an intermittent interseasonal frequency (3–6 months), especially during three periods (1983–84, 1990, and 1994–96). Some energy is also found with a 4-yr period.

Further analyses reveal that the pulsation mode can also be observed in physical space. The pulsation mode is found to be related to movements of the SAF constrained by the bathymetry of the Southeast Indian Ridge. The pulsation mode displays many similarities with cold-core eddy events rather than being related to variations of the westerly wind stress, as previously proposed. The impact of those events on SAMW properties remains unclear.

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