Decadal Changes in Hydrography of the Southern Pacific Ocean and Ross Sea

Monday, 15 December 2014
Lynne D Talley, University of California San Diego, La Jolla, CA, United States, Brendan Carter, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ, United States, Mark J Warner, Univ Washington, Seattle, WA, United States, James H Swift, UCSD/SIO, La Jolla, CA, United States, Alejandro Hector Orsi, Texas A & M University, College Station, TX, United States and Bernadette Sloyan, CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research Hobart, Hobart, Australia
Quasi-decadal hydrographic sections of the GO-SHIP program cross the world’s oceans with the highest accuracy measurements, documenting temporal variability in physical and chemical properties. The central southern Pacific and Ross Sea have been surveyed regularly along GO-SHIP sections P16S (150W) and S4P (67S) since the first occupation in WOCE in 1992. Observed changes are consistent with anthropogenic forcing. The central Ross Sea gyre’s bottom 1000 m is nearly adiabatic (well mixed), and well-ventilated based on chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) and sulfur hexafluoride observations (see Figure), and can be easily compared from one survey to the next. This Ross Sea bottom layer observed in March, 2014, on P16S continued to warm, with a monotonic increase over the 4 WOCE/GO-SHIP surveys thus far: 1992, 2005, 2011, and now 2014 (see Figure). Deep temperature has increased by 0.1°C since 1992, continuing the trend of enhanced global ocean deep warming in the Southern Ocean documented by Purkey/Johnson (2010) and IPCC AR5 WG1. The abyssal central Ross Sea waters also continued to freshen slightly. The upper ocean in the Ross Sea warmed, became more stratified, had higher nutrients and total carbon, and was less ventilated in terms of apparent oxygen utilization than in 2005. North of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current along 150W, the upper ocean’s Subantarctic Mode Water became saltier, also continuing the subtropical trend of the past several decades (Durack/Wijffels 2010), with an apparently stronger incursion of saline subtropical waters that render it more salt and temperature stratified, ruling out a local deep mixed layer formation mechanism, with an increasing tendency towards double diffusive processes. The Antarctic Intermediate Water salinity minimum continued to freshen. The arrival in 2014 of CFC’s at the ocean bottom between 32S and 40S indicates that the Antarctic Bottom Water there is about 40-50 years old. CFCs in the ocean’s surface layer decreased, in accord with decreasing atmospheric concentration, while CFCs in the deep subtropical pycnocline continued to increase as the upper ocean’s transient moved downwards into the ocean.