"Eddy resolving" observation of the North Pacific subtropical mode water

Eitarou Oka, Toshio Suga, Chiho Sukigara, Katsuya Toyama, Keishi Shimada, Jiro Yoshida

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44 Citations (Scopus)


Hydrographic data obtained by high-resolution shipboard observations and Argo profiling floats have been analyzed to study the mesoscale structure and circulation of the North Pacific Subtropical Mode Water (STMW). The float data show that in the late winter of 2008, STMW having a temperature of approximately 18.8°, 17.7°, and 16.6°C formed west of 140°E, at 140°-150°E, and east of 150°E, respectively, in the recirculation gyre south of the Kuroshio Extension. After spring, the newly formed STMW gradually shift southward, decreasing in thickness. Simultaneously, the STMWs of 16.6° and 17.7°C are gradually stirred and then mixed in terms of properties. In late fall, they seem to be integrated to form a single group of STMWs having a temperature centered at 17.2°C. Such STMW circulation in 2008 is much more turbulent than that in 2006, which was investigated in a previous study. The difference between the two years is attributed to the more variable state of the Kuroshio Extension in 2008, associated with stronger eddy activities in the STMW formation region, which enhance the eddy transport of STMW. High-resolution shipboard observations were carried out southeast of Japan at 141°-147°E in the early fall of 2008. To the south of the Kuroshio Extension,STMWexists as a sequence of patches with a horizontal scale of 100-200 km, whose thick portions correspond well to the mesoscale deepening of the permanent pycnocline. The western (eastern) hydrographic sections are occupied mostly by the 17.7°C (16.6°C) STMW, within which the 16.6°C (17.7°C) STMW exists locally, mostly at locations where both the permanent pycnocline depth and the STMW thickness are maximum. This structure implies that the STMW patches are transported away from their respective formation sites, corresponding to a shift in the mesoscale anticyclonic circulations south of the Kuroshio Extension. Furthermore, 20%-30% of the observed STMW pycnostads have two or three potential vorticity minima, mostly near temperatures of 16.6° and 17.7°C. The authors presume that such a structure formed as a result of the interleaving of the 16.6° and 17.7°C STMWs after they are stirred by mesoscale circulations, following which they are vertically mixed to form the 17.2°C STMW observed in late fall. These results indicate the importance of horizontal processes in destroying the vertically uniform structure of STMW after spring, particularly when the Kuroshio Extension is in a variable state.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)666-681
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Physical Oceanography
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2011 Apr


  • Eddies
  • Ocean Circulation
  • Pacific Ocean


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