Regional sea level trends due to a Pacific trade wind intensification



[1] Over the past two decades, sea level trends have increased in the western tropical Pacific Ocean with rates that are approximately three times the global average. A general circulation model is used to show that the high rates are caused by a gradual intensification of Pacific trade winds since the early 1990s. The modeled sea level change captures the spatial trend pattern in satellite altimeter sea surface heights and the temporal trend shift in tide gauge observations. In addition to the sea level response, the model is used to show how other aspects of the ocean circulation have increased appreciably in amplitude as a consequence of the trade wind intensification, including tropical surface currents, the shallow meridional over-turning circulation, the Equatorial Undercurrent, and the Indonesian Throughflow. These results highlight an ongoing shift in the state of the tropical Pacific Ocean that will continue as long as the trade wind trend persists.