Spatiotemporal Variability of the South Pacific Convergence Zone Fresh Pool Eastern Front from Coral-Derived Surface Salinity Data
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Spatiotemporal Variability of the South Pacific Convergence Zone Fresh Pool Eastern Front from Coral-Derived Surface Salinity Data

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  • Journal Title:
    Journal of Climate
  • Description:
    Direct observations indicate a southeastward expansion of the South Pacific convergence zone (SPCZ) fresh pool and a freshening trend since the 1970s. Understanding decadal and longer-term variability of the SPCZ fresh pool and of the salinity front located at its southeastern margin has been limited by the scarcity of instrumental sea surface salinity (SSS) measurements. This study uses coral δ18O as a proxy for SSS to extend the salinity record back to the 1880s, from three different locations across the SSS front: Fiji, Tonga, and Rarotonga (FTR region). High percentages of observed SSS variance are explained by multicoral δ18O mean composite at each site. At the interannual time scale, the salinity front displacement over the last 200 years follows the El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) index. The different El Niño flavors are observable in the amplitude of the salinity front interannual displacement. However, no significant changes in either the frequency or the amplitude of its displacements were observed. At longer time scales, the timing and magnitude of the freshening trend vary among sites. The earliest freshening onset of about −0.06 psu decade−1 is detected in Fiji (around 1865), then Rarotonga (around 1939), and Tonga (around 1982). The role of atmospheric freshwater fluxes on SSS variability is evaluated by comparing coral SSS to historical precipitation data. The results suggest that, despite the known influence of the interdecadal Pacific oscillation (IPO) negative phases on increasing atmospheric freshwater fluxes and lowering SSS in the FTR region, ocean dynamics has a dominant influence at decadal time scale and in the onset of freshening trends.
  • Source:
    Journal of Climate, 31(8), 3265-3288
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