Estimating ENSO Influence on the Global Mean Sea Level, 1993-2010

Abstract : Interannual global mean sea level (GMSL) variations and El Nino-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) are highly correlated, with positive/negative GMSL anomalies during El Nino/La Nina events. In a previous study, we showed that interannual GMSL and total land water storage variations are inversely correlated, with lower-than-average total water storage on land and higher-than-average GMSL during El Nino. This result is in agreement with the observed rainfall deficit/excess over land/oceans during El Nino (and vice versa during La Nina). It suggests that the positive GMSL anomaly observed during El Nino is likely due to an ocean mass rather than thermal expansion increase. Here, we analyze the respective contribution of the Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific oceans to the interannual (ENSO-related) GMSL anomalies observed during the altimetry era (i.e., since 1993) with an emphasis on the 1997/1998 El Nino event. For each oceanic region, we compute the steric contribution, and remove it from the altimetry-based mean sea level to estimate the ocean mass component. We find that mass changes of the tropical Pacific Ocean, mainly in the region within 0-25°N, are mostly responsible for the observed 1997/1998 ENSO-related GMSL anomaly. The ocean mass excess of this region almost perfectly compensates the total land water deficit during the 1997/1998 El Nino. An estimate of the ocean-atmosphere water balance of this region shows that the time derivative of the ocean mass component is well correlated with net P-E (precipitation minus evaporation) over most of the study period, except during the 1997/1998 ENSO event, where there is a temporary ocean mass increase, not compensated by the net P-E. We thus propose that the 1997/1998 ocean mass increase of this north tropical Pacific area be linked to an imbalance between the inflow/outflow entering/leaving the north tropical Pacific. A preliminary qualitative analysis indicates that a significant reduction of the Makassar Strait transport, (about 80% of the total Indonesian throughflow), as previously reported in the literature during the strong 1997/1998 El Nino event, could explain the north tropical Pacific Ocean mass excess reported in this study, hence the observed positive GMSL anomaly.
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Submitted on : Sunday, March 10, 2013 - 9:22:40 AM
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Anny Cazenave, O. Henry, S. Munier, Thierry Delcroix, A. L. Gordon, et al.. Estimating ENSO Influence on the Global Mean Sea Level, 1993-2010. Marine Geodesy, Taylor & Francis, 2012, 35, pp.82-97. ⟨10.1080/01490419.2012.718209⟩. ⟨hal-00798737⟩

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