National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration
United States Department of Commerce


FY 2012

Multidecadal warming and shoaling of Antarctic Intermediate Water

Schmidtko, S., and G.C. Johnson

J. Climate, 25, 207–221, doi: 10.1175/JCLI-D-11-00021.1 (2012)

Antarctic Intermediate Water (AAIW) is a dominant Southern Hemisphere water mass that spreads from its formation regions just north of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC) to at least 20°S in all oceans. This study uses an isopycnal climatology constructed from Argo Conductivity-Temperature-Depth (CTD) profile data to define the current state of the AAIW salinity minimum (its core) and thence compute AAIW core pressure, potential temperature, salinity, and potential density anomalies since the mid-1970s from ship-based CTD profiles. The results are used to calculate maps of temporal property trends at the AAIW core, where statistically significant strong circumpolar shoaling (30–50 dbar decade−1), warming (0.05–0.15°C decade−1), and density reductions (up to −0.03 kg m−3 decade−1) are found. These trends are strongest just north of the ACC in the southeast Pacific and Atlantic oceans and decrease equatorward. Salinity trends are generally small, with their sign varying regionally. Bottle data are used to extend the AAIW core potential temperature anomaly analysis back to 1925 in the Atlantic, and to ~1960 elsewhere. The modern warm AAIW core conditions appear largely unprecedented in the historical record: biennially and zonally binned median AAIW core potential temperatures within each ocean basin are, with the notable exception of the subtropical South Atlantic in the 1950s–70s, 0.2–1°C colder than modern values. Zonally averaged sea surface temperature anomalies around the AAIW formation latitudes in each ocean and sectoral Southern Annular Mode indices are used to put the AAIW core property trends and variations into context.

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