Estimating the velocity and transport of the East Australian Current using Argo, XBT, and Altimetry
Event: 2015 Ocean Surface Topography Science Team Meeting
Session: Science III: Large scale and global change ocean processes: the ocean's role in climate
Presentation type: Type Poster
Western Boundary Currents (WBCs) are the strongest ocean currents in the subtropics, and constitute the main pathway through which warm water-masses transit from low to mid-latitudes in the subtropical gyres of the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans. Heat advection by WBCs has a significant impact on heat storage in subtropical mode waters formation regions and at high latitudes. The possibility that the magnitude of WBCs might change under greenhouse gas forcing has raised significant concerns. Improving our knowledge of WBC circulation is essential to accurately monitor the oceanic heat budget. Because of the narrowness and strong mesoscale variability of WBCs, estimation of WBC velocity and transport places heavy demands on any potential sampling scheme. One strategy for studying WBCs is to combine complementary data sources. High-resolution bathythermograph (HRX) profiles to 800-m have been collected along transects crossing the East Australian Current (EAC) system at 3-month nominal sampling intervals since 1991. EAC transects, with spatial sampling as fine as 10-15 km, are obtained off Brisbane (27°S) and Sydney (34°S), and crossing the related East Auckland Current north of Auckland. Here, HRX profiles collected since 2004 off Brisbane are merged with Argo float profiles and 1000 m trajectory-based velocities to expand HRX shear estimates to 2000-m and to estimate absolute geostrophic velocity and transport. A method for combining altimetric data with HRX and Argo profiles to mitigate temporal aliasing by the HRX transects and to reduce sampling errors in the HRX/Argo datasets is described. The HRX/Argo/altimetry-based estimate of the time-mean poleward alongshore transport of the EAC off Brisbane is 18.3 Sv, with a width of about 180 km, and of which 3.7 Sv recirculates equatorward on a similar spatial scale farther offshore. Geostrophic transport anomalies in the EAC at 27°S show variability of ± 1.3 Sv at interannual time scale related to ENSO. The present calculation is a case study that will be extended to other subtropical WBCs.