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Journal Article

Detecting processes contributing to interannual halosteric and thermosteric sea level variability

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Koehl, A. (2014). Detecting processes contributing to interannual halosteric and thermosteric sea level variability. Journal of Climate, 27, 2417-2426. doi:10.1175/JCLI-D-13-00412.1.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-0026-A194-B
On interannual time scales, regional sea level variability is largely determined by changes in the steric component. The relation between the thermosteric and halosteric components is studied by separating the components into contributions from the mixed layer and, below the mixed layer, into the part that is related to isopycnal motion and that contributes to the steric sea level and the inactive part related to changes of spiciness. The decomposition provides a simple diagnostic to detect and understand physical mechanisms leading to regional sea level changes. In most areas of the world's oceans, steric sea level variability is dominated by the contribution from isopycnal motion to the thermosteric sea level while halosteric variability relates more to spiciness. Because of the salinity minimum at middepth, different spatial salinity gradients above and below the minimum lead to opposing contributions and thus to a small contribution from isopycnal motion to the halosteric sea level. In nonpolar regions, both active components oppose each other, rendering the thermosteric variability larger than the steric variability. In the Arctic, the variability of both components is governed by spiciness in the Eurasian Basin and isopycnal motion in the Amerasian Basin.