Abstract

Meridional shift of the Kuroshio Extension (KE) front and changes in the formation of the North Pacific Subtropical Mode Water (STMW) during 1979-2018 are reported. The surface-to-subsurface structure of the KE front averaged over 142°E-165°E has shifted poleward at a rate of ~ 0.23±0.16° per decade. The shift was caused mainly by the poleward shift of the downstream KE front (153°E-165°E, ~ 0.41±0.29° per decade), barely by the upstream KE front (142°E-153°E). The long-term shift trend of the KE front showed two distinct behaviors before and after 2002. Before 2002, the surface KE front moved northward with a faster rate than the subsurface. After 2002, the surface KE front showed no obvious trend, but the subsurface KE front continued to move northward. The ventilation zone of the STMW, defined by the area between 16°C and 18°C isotherms or between 25 kg m-3 and 25.5 kg m-3 isopycnals, contracted and displaced northward with a shoaling of the mixed layer depth (hm) before 2002 when the KE front moved northward. The STMW subduction rate was reduced by 0.76 Sv (63%) during 1979-2018, most of which occurred before 2002. Of the three components affecting the total subduction rate, the temporal induction ( −∂hm/∂t ) was dominant accounting for 91% of the rate reduction, while the vertical pumping (−wmb) amounted to 8% and the lateral induction (−umb · ∇hm) was insignificant. The reduced temporal induction was attributed to both the contracted ventilation zone and the shallowed hm that were incurred by the poleward shift of KE front.

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