06 Apr 2021

06 Apr 2021

Review status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal OS.

Western boundary circulation and coastal sea-level variability in northern hemisphere oceans

Samuel Tiéfolo Diabaté1, Didier Swingedouw2, Joël Jean-Marie Hirschi3, Aurélie Duchez3, Philip J. Leadbitter4, Ivan D. Haigh5, and Gerard D. McCarthy1 Samuel Tiéfolo Diabaté et al.
  • 1ICARUS, Department of Geography, Maynooth University, Maynooth, Co. Kildare, Ireland
  • 2Environnements et Paleoenvironnements Oceaniques et Continentaux (EPOC), UMR CNRS 5805 EPOC-OASU-Universite de Bordeaux, Allée Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, Pessac 33615, France
  • 3National Oceanography Centre, Southampton, UK
  • 4University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK
  • 5University of Southampton, Southampton, UK

Abstract. The northwest basins of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans are regions of intense Western Boundary Currents (WBC), the Gulf Stream and the Kuroshio. The variability of these poleward currents and their extension in the open ocean is of major importance to the climate system. It is largely dominated by in-phase meridional shifts downstream of the points where they separate from the coast. Tide gauges on the adjacent coastlines have measured the inshore sea level for many decades and provide a unique window on the past of the oceanic circulation. The relationship between coastal sea level and the variability of the western boundary currents has been previously studied in each basin separately but comparison between the two basins is missing. Here we show for each basin, that the inshore sea level upstream the separation points is in sustained agreement with the meridional shifts of the western boundary current extension over the period studied, i.e. the past seven (five) decades in the Atlantic (Pacific). Decomposition of the coastal sea level into principal components allows us to discriminate this variability in the upstream sea level from other sources of variability such as the influence of large meanders in the Pacific. This result suggests that prediction of inshore sea-level changes could be improved by the inclusion of meridional shifts of the western boundary current extensions as predictors. Conversely, long duration tide gauges, such as Key West, Fernandina Beach or Hosojima could be used as proxies for the past meridional shifts of the western boundary current extensions.

Samuel Tiéfolo Diabaté et al.

Status: open (until 01 Jun 2021)

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Samuel Tiéfolo Diabaté et al.

Data sets

Spreadsheets for GSNW, KEI and tide gauge derived sea-level modes Diabaté, Samuel Tiéfolo; Swingedouw, Didier; Hirschi, Joël Jean-Marie; Duchez, Aurélie; Leadbitter, Philip J.; Haigh, Ivan D.; McCarthy, Gerard D.

Samuel Tiéfolo Diabaté et al.


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Short summary
The Gulf Stream and the Kuroshio are major currents of the North Atlantic and North Pacific respectively. They transport warm water northward and are key components of the Earth climate system. For this study, we looked at how they affect the sea level of the coasts of Japan, USA and Canada. We found that the inshore sea level covary with the north to south shifts of the Gulf Stream and Kuroshio. In the paper, we discuss the physical mechanisms that could explain the agreement.