Revisiting the South Pacific subtropical circulation: A synthesis of World Ocean Circulation Experiment observations along 32°S Academic Article uri icon


  • Hydrographic data about latitudes 30 degrees -32 degreesS in the Pacific Ocean are presented and used together with direct velocity observations from floats and moorings to investigate the spatial distribution of meridional flow and its associated transports. An initial velocity scheme is developed with reference to the water property distributions that is subsequently adjusted to meet constraints on net mass and dissolved silica transports. The resulting circulation is found to be sensitive to a priori scaling assumptions and differs in detail from past estimates of the flow in this region. Additionally constraining the flow with directly measured time averaged estimates of the velocity from floats and a current meter array significantly reduces the uncertainty in the derived flow field and improves consistency between the velocity and the property distributions. The derived circulation includes a nearly closed bottom-to-deep-water overturning circulation of 16-20 Sv, below a subtropical gyre flow of thermocline and surface waters consisting of nearly distinct Tasman Sea (similar to 30 Sv) and basin interior (similar to 10 Sv) circulations and (a prescribed) similar to 10 +/- 5 Sv of net northward flow to supply the Indonesian and Bering Strait throughflows. On the basis of this circulation scheme, the heat flux divergence for the Pacific north of the P6 line is estimated to be 0.75 +/- 0.56 pW (ocean gaining heat from the atmosphere) and the net freshwater divergence is estimated to be 0.1 +/- 0.1 Sv (ocean gains fresh water via air-sea exchange and runoff). The former is highly dependent on the strength of the Indonesian throughflow; the latter also depends on the intensity of the lateral subtropical gyre circulation, which is constrained by the float data. Combined with estimates from the Indian and Atlantic Oceans, we find the subtropical Southern Hemisphere oceans transport 0.46 +/- 0.38 PW poleward, less than half the poleward heat transport achieved by the subtropical oceans in the Northern Hemisphere.

publication date

  • September 15, 2001