University of Tasmania
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Simulating the role of surface forcing on observed multidecadal upper-ocean salinity changes

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posted on 2023-05-19, 01:58 authored by Lago, V, Wijffels, SE, Durack, PJ, Church, JA, Nathaniel BindoffNathaniel Bindoff, Marsland, SJ
The ocean’s surface salinity field has changed over the observed record, driven by an intensification of the water cycle in response to global warming. However, the origin and causes of the coincident subsurface salinity changes are not fully understood. The relationship between imposed surface salinity and temperature changes and their corresponding subsurface changes is investigated using idealized ocean model experiments. The ocean’s surface has warmed by about 0.5°C (50 yr)−1 while the surface salinity pattern has amplified by about 8% per 50 years. The idealized experiments are constructed for a 50-yr period, allowing a qualitative comparison to the observed salinity and temperature changes previously reported. The comparison suggests that changes in both modeled surface salinity and temperature are required to replicate the three-dimensional pattern of observed salinity change. The results also show that the effects of surface changes in temperature and salinity act linearly on the changes in subsurface salinity. Surface salinity pattern amplification appears to be the leading driver of subsurface salinity change on depth surfaces; however, surface warming is also required to replicate the observed patterns of change on density surfaces. This is the result of isopycnal migration modified by the ocean surface warming, which produces significant salinity changes on density surfaces.


Publication title

Journal of Climate










Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies


Amer Meteorological Soc

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