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Shijian Hu
Ying Zhang
Ming Feng
Yan Du
Janet Sprintall
Fan Wang
Dunxin Hu
Qiang Xie
, and
Fei Chai


Variability of oceanic salinity, an indicator of the global hydrological cycle, plays an important role in the basin-scale ocean circulation. In this study, interannual to decadal variability of salinity in the upper layer of the Indian Ocean is investigated using Argo observations since 2004 and data assimilating model outputs (1992–2015). The southeastern Indian Ocean shows the strongest interannual to decadal variability of upper-ocean salinity in the Indian Ocean. Westward propagation of salinity anomalies along isopycnal surfaces is detected in the southern Indian Ocean and attributed to zonal salinity advection anomalies associated with the Indonesian Throughflow and the South Equatorial Current. Composite and salinity budget analyses show that horizontal advection is a major contributor to the interannual to decadal salinity variability of the southern Indian Ocean, and the local air–sea freshwater flux plays a secondary role. The Pacific decadal oscillation (PDO) and El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) modulate the salinity variability in the southeastern Indian Ocean, with low salinity anomalies occurring during the negative phases of the PDO and ENSO and high salinity anomalies during their positive phases. The Indonesian Throughflow plays an essential role in transmitting the PDO- and ENSO-related salinity signals into the Indian Ocean. A statistical model is proposed based on the PDO index, which successfully predicts the southeastern Indian Ocean salinity variability with a lead time of 10 months.

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