Subsurface water masses in the Central North Pacific transition region: The repeat section along the 180° meridian

Toshio Suga, Kazunori Motoki, Kimio Hanawa

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21 Citations (Scopus)


A repeat hydrographic section has been maintained over two decades along the 180° meridian across the subarctic-subtropical transition region. The section is naturally divided into at least three distinct zones. In the Subarctic Zone north of 46°N, the permanent halocline dominates the density stratification, supporting a subsurface temperature minimum (STM). The Subarctic Frontal Zone (SFZ) between 42°-46°N is the region where the subarctic halocline outcrops. To the south is the Subtropical Zone, where the permanent thermocline dominates the density stratification, containing a pycnostad of North Pacific Central Mode Water (CMW). The STM water colder than 4°C in the Subarctic Zone is originated in the winter mixed layer of the Bering Sea. The temporal variation of its core temperature lags 12-16 months behind the variations of both the winter sea surface temperature (SST) and the summer STM temperature in the Bering Sea, suggesting that the thermal anomalies imposed on the STM water by wintertime air-sea interaction in the Bering Sea spread over the western subarctic gyre, reaching the 180° meridian within a year or so. The CMW in this section originates in the winter mixed layer near the northern edge of the Subtropical Zone between 160°E and 180°. The CMW properties changed abruptly from 1988 to 1989; its temperature and salinity increased and its potential density decreased. It is argued that these changes were caused by the climate regime shift in 1988/1989 characterized by weakening of the Aleutian Low and the westerlies and increase in the SST in the subarctic-subtropical transition region.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)435-444
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Oceanography
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2003 Aug


  • Climate regime shift
  • Dichothermal water
  • North Pacific Central Mode Water
  • Subsurface temperature minimum
  • Western subarctic gyre


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