Oscillatory and propagating modes of temperature variability at the 3-3.5- and 4-4.5-yr. time scales in the upper southwest Pacific Ocean

Neil J. Holbrook, Peter S L Chan, Silvia A. Venegas

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16 Citations (Scopus)


This paper investigates oscillatory and propagating patterns of normalized surface and subsurface temperature anomalies (from the seasonal cycle) in the southwest Pacific Ocean using an extended empirical orthogonal function (EEOF) analysis. The temperature data (and errors) are from the Digital Atlas of Southwest Pacific upper Ocean Temperatures (DASPOT). These data are 3 monthly in time (January, April, July, and October), 2° × 2° in space, and 5 m in the vertical to 450-m depths. The temperature anomalies in the EEOF analysis are normalized by the objective mapping temperature errors at each grid point. They are also Butterworth filtered in the 3-7-yr band to examine interannual variations in the temperature field. The oscillating and propagating patterns of the modes are examined across four vertical levels: the surface, and 100-, 250-, and 450-m depths. The dominant mod e EEOF (70% of the total variance of the filtered data) oscillates in a 4-4.5-yr quasi-periodic manner that is consistent with El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO). Anomalies peak first at the surface in the subtropics between New Caledonia and Fiji (centered around 17°S, 177°E), then 6 months later in the tropical far west centered around the Solomon Islands (5°S, 153°-157°E), with a maximum at the base of the mixed layer (100 m) and upper thermocline (250 m), and then eastward in the northeast of the southwest Pacific region (0°-10°S, 160°E-180°). Mode 2 (25% variance of the filtered data) has a periodicity of 3-3.5 yr, with centers of action in all four vertical levels. The mode-2 patterns are consistent with variations in the subtropical gyre circulation, including the East Australian Current and its separation, and are continuous with the Tasman Front. Two spatial dipoles are apparent: (i) one in sea surface temperature (SST) at about 5°S, straddling west-east either side of the Solomon Islands, consistent with the classic Pacific-wide ENSO SST anomaly mode, and (ii) a subsurface dipole pattern, with centers in the Solomon Islands region at 100- and 250-m depths, and the western Tasman Sea (27°-33°S, 157°-161°E) at 250- and 450-m depths, consistent with dynamic changes in the gyre intensity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)719-736
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Climate
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2005

Bibliographical note

A corrigendum for this article exists in the Journal of Climate, vol. 18, no. 10, p. 1637-1639. DOI: 10.1175/JCLI9001.1


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