Structure and modification of the South Pacific Eastern Subtropical Mode Water

Kanako Sato, Toshio Suga

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19 Citations (Scopus)


Using all available temperature and salinity profiles obtained by Argo floats from July 2004 to June 2007, this study investigated the structure and modification of the South Pacific Eastern Subtropical Mode Water (SPESTMW). Based on the observed characteristics of the vertical minima of potential vorticity over the subtropical South Pacific, SPESTMW is defined as water with potential vorticity magnitude less than 2.5 × 10-10 m-1 s-1 and thickness exceeding 40 m. It is found between 35°-5°S and 160°-70°W and has a temperature of 13°-26°C, salinity greater than 34.0, and density of 24.5-25.8 kg m-3 at its core. This study confirmed that vertical changes in temperature and salinity tend to compensate for each other in terms of density changes, resulting in favorable salt fingering conditions, as previously reported. By analyzing many profiles of Argo data in spring immediately after the SPESTMW formation period, its temperature and salinity are vertically uniform in the formation region, but large vertical gradients of temperature and salinity are found downstream from that region, even in the SPESTMW core. Consequently, the low potential vorticity signature of SPESTMW spread much wider than its signature as a thermostad. The Argo data also captured the seasonal changes of the vertical gradients of temperature and salinity at the SPESTMW core; these gradients increased as the seasons progressed, even in the formation region. Therefore, SPESTMW is truly vertically uniform water (i.e., thermostad, halostad, and pycnostad simultaneously) only immediately after the formation period. Afterward, it is only pycnostad. This seasonal evolution is related to temperature and salinity diffusion due to salt fingering in a manner similar to the rapid modification of interannual anomalies as shown by previous research. The temperature and salinity near the SPESTMW core and lower region decreased soon after its formation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1700-1714
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Physical Oceanography
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oceanography


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