, Volume 58, Issue 3-4, pp 289-309
Date: 28 Oct 2008

Water mass transformation along the Indonesian throughflow in an OGCM

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Abstract

The oceanic pathways connecting the Pacific Ocean to the Indian Ocean are described using a quantitative Lagrangian method applied to Eulerian fields from an ocean general circulation model simulation of the Indonesian seas. The main routes diagnosed are in good agreement with those inferred from observations. The secondary routes and the Pacific recirculation are also quantified. The model reproduces the observed salt penetration of subtropical waters from the South Pacific, the homohaline stratification in the southern Indonesian basins, and the cold fresh tongue which exits into the Indian Ocean. These particular water mass characteristics, close to those observed, are obtained when a tidal mixing parameterization is introduced into the model. Trajectories are obtained which link the water masses at the entrance and at the exit of the Indonesian throughflow (ITF), and the mixing along each trajectory is quantified. Both the ITF and the Pacific recirculation are transformed, suggesting that the Indonesian transformation affects both the Indian and Pacific stratification. A recipe to form Indonesian water masses is proposed. We present three major features of the circulation that revisit the classical picture of the ITF and its associated water mass transformation, while still being in agreement with observations. Firstly, the homohaline layer is not a result of pure isopycnal mixing of the North Pacific Intermediate Water and South Pacific Subtropical Water (SPSW) within the Banda Sea, as previously thought. Instead, the observed homohaline layer is reproduced by the model, but it is caused by both isopycnal mixing with the SPSW and a dominant vertical mixing before the Banda Sea with the NPSW. This new mechanism could be real since the model reproduces the SPSW penetration as observed. Secondly, the model explains why the Banda Sea thermocline water is so fresh compared to the SPSW. Until now, the only explanation was a recirculation of the freshwater from the western route. The model does not reproduce this recirculation but instead shows strong mixing of the SPSW within the Halmahera and Seram Seas, which erodes the salinity maximum so that its signature is not longer perceptible. Finally, this work highlights the key role of the Java Sea freshwater. Even though its annual net mass contribution is small, its fresh salinity contribution is highly significant and represents the main reason why the Pacific salinity maxima are eroded.

Responsible editor: Tony Hirst