Articles | Volume 7, issue 5
Research article
25 Oct 2011
Research article |  | 25 Oct 2011

ENSO-correlated fluctuations in ocean bottom pressure and wind-stress curl in the North Pacific

D. P. Chambers

Abstract. We examine the output of an ocean model forced by ECMWF winds to study the theoretical relationship between wind-induced changes in ocean bottom pressure in the North Pacific between 1992 until 2010 and ENSO. Our analysis indicates that while there are significant fluctuations correlated with some El Niño and La Niña events, the correlation is still relatively low. Moreover, the ENSO-correlated variability explains only 50 % of the non-seasonal, low-frequency variance. There are significant residual fluctuations in both wind-stress curl and ocean bottom pressure in the region with periods of 4-years and longer. One such fluctuation began in late 2002 and has been observed by the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE). Even after accounting for possible ENSO-correlated variations, there is a significant trend in ocean bottom pressure in the region, equivalent to 0.7 ± 0.3 cm yr−1 of sea level from January 2003 until December 2008, which is confirmed with steric-corrected altimetry. Although this low-frequency fluctuation does not appear in the ocean model, we show that ECMWF winds have a significantly reduced trend that is inconsistent with satellite observations over the same time period, and so it appears that the difference is due to a forcing error in the model and not an intrinsic error.