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Keywords:

  • ocean bottom pressure;
  • South Pacific;
  • GRACE;
  • sea level

In late 2009 to early 2010, the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellite pair observed a record increase in ocean bottom pressure (OBP) over a large mid-latitude region of the South East Pacific. Its magnitude is substantially larger than other oceanic events in the Southern Hemisphere found in the entire GRACE data records (2003–2010) on multi-month time scales. The OBP data help to understand the nature of a similar signal in sea surface height (SSH) anomaly observed by altimetry: the SSH increase is mainly due to mass convergence. Analysis of the barotropic vorticity equation using scatterometer data, atmospheric reanalysis product, and GRACE and altimeter an atmospheric reanalysis product observations suggests that the observed OBP/SSH signal was primarily caused by wind stress curl associated with a strong and persistent anticyclone in late 2009 in combination with effects of planetary vorticity gradient, bottom topography, and friction.