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Keywords:

  • NEC bifurcation;
  • decadal variations;
  • TPDV

Abstract

In this study, we examine the decadal variations of the Pacific North Equatorial Current (NEC) bifurcation latitude (NBL) averaged over upper 100 m and underlying dynamics over the past six decades using 11 ocean products, including seven kinds of ocean reanalyzes based on ocean data assimilation systems, two kinds of numerical simulations without assimilating observations and two kinds of objective analyzes based on in situ observations only. During the period of 1954–2007, the multiproduct mean of decadal NBL anomalies shows maxima around 1965/1966, 1980/1981, 1995/1996, and 2003/2004, and minima around 1958, 1971/1972, 1986/1987, and 2000/2001, respectively. The NBL decadal variations are related to the first Empirical Orthogonal Function mode of decadal anomalies of sea surface height (SSH) in the northwestern tropical Pacific Ocean, which shows spatially coherent variation over the whole region and explains most of the total variance. Further regression and composite analyzes indicate that northerly/southerly NBL corresponds to negative/positive SSH anomalies and cyclonic/anticyclonic gyre anomalies in the northwestern tropical Pacific Ocean. These decadal circulation variations and thus the decadal NBL variations are governed mostly by the first two vertical modes and attribute the most to the first baroclinic mode. The NBL decadal variation is highly positively correlated with the tropical Pacific decadal variability (TPDV) around the zero time lag. With a lead of about half the decadal cycle the NBL displays closer but negative relationship to TPDV in four ocean products, possibly manifesting the dynamical role of the circulation in the northwestern tropical Pacific in the phase-shifting of TPDV.