National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration
United States Department of Commerce


FY 2008

Decadal phase change in large-scale sea level and winds in the Indo-Pacific region at the end of the 20th century

Lee, T., and M.J. McPhaden

Geophys. Res. Lett., 35, L01605, doi: 10.1029/2007GL032419 (2008)

Satellite observations of sea surface height (SSH) and wind stress for the period of 1993–2006 reveal a near-coherent large-scale decadal variability in much of the Indo-Pacific region with a phase change at the turn of the 20th century. Trade wind variations in the tropical Pacific and South Indian Ocean are anti-correlated with each other as are SSH differences across these two basins, implying anti-correlated variation of the subtropical cells in the two oceans. Decadal changes in large-scale SSH in the extra-tropics are mostly associated with well-defined patterns of wind stress curl indicating a near-coherent decadal variation in the strength of subtropical and subpolar gyres. Together, these variations reflect a linkage in the circulation of the Pacific and Indian Oceans via atmospheric and oceanic bridges. The phase change in the tropical Pacific tends to occur earlier than elsewhere, suggesting a potential role of the tropical Pacific in regulating decadal variability of the entire region.

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