Annual and interannual variability of sea level in the northern North Atlantic Ocean



[1] The combined TOPEX/Poseidon + ERS-1/2 sea level anomaly (SLA) data from the northern North Atlantic Ocean for the time period 22 October 1992 to 29 December 2000 (300 cycles) were processed. The annual and interannual signals were examined, and their contribution to the total variance is estimated. Both signals appeared to be responsible for a greatest portion of variability outside the North Atlantic Current (NAC) and its branches. The annual signal manifested consistency with seasonal changes in the heat storage, possibly enhanced by seasonal variations of advection. A considerable interannual change was monitored in the vast areas of the northern North Atlantic Ocean as well as along the NAC. The interannual change in SLA was found to be consistent with the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) index when it changed from its positive to its negative phase in 1996. The significant negative correlation coefficient between the annually averaged SLA and NAO index time series was estimated in all dynamically calm areas outside the NAC. Hydrographic data obtained during several cruises for the time interval studied were also investigated and coupled with the variations of SLA and NAO index. The analysis showed a good agreement between the altimeter-derived SLA and dynamic height anomalies suggesting that the sea level changes in the northern North Atlantic have a baroclinic nature.