Cyclone-driven deep sea injection of freshwater and heat by hyperpycnal flow in the subtropics

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Abstract

[1] The western tropical Pacific gives birth to 23 tropical cyclones annually, bringing torrential rainfall to mountainous islands across Oceania resulting in a global sediment production hotspot, in which many rivers have great hyperpycnal potential. By using a temperature (T) and salinity (S) profiler, we observed anomalously warm, low salinity turbid water at 3000–3700 m depths in seas ∼180 km off southwestern Taiwan immediately after Typhoon Morakot in 2009. This 250m-thick bottom-hugging water occupies ∼2400 km2, and contains 0.15% freshwater, suggesting a remarkably high fraction (6–10%) of event rainfall from southwestern Taiwan. These characteristics indicate the turbid water originated from shallow coastal waters via hyperpycnal flow. Apparently, sediment produced from the land during tropical cyclones open an “express gate” to convey heat and freshwater vertically to the deep ocean basin subsequently warming the deep water from the bottom up.

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