• Subantarctic Mode Water (SAMW);
  • meridional overturning circulation (MOC;
  • Southern Annular Mode (SAM;
  • El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO);
  • nutrients;
  • carbon cycling

[1] As the primary source of nutrients to the global thermocline, Subantarctic Mode Waters (SAMWs) play a key role in primary production and climate. Here we use repeat hydrographic World Ocean Circulation Experiment/Climate Variability and Predictability data to quantify interannual SAMW nutrient variability and its forcing. Pacific sector SAMW nutrients were significantly correlated with the Southern Annular Mode (SAM) and wind stress curl anomalies associated with a faster meridional overturning circulation (MOC). A stronger MOC results in greater upwelling of nutrients at high latitudes, increased Ekman transport of nutrients equatorward, and subduction of higher preformed nutrient loads in SAMWs. Australian sector SAMWs were significantly correlated with El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO), likely due to its modulation of transport in the East Australian Current extension. Interannual variability in SAMW nutrients impacts downstream tropical export production by as much as 5–12% of the annual mean.