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Discussion papers
https://doi.org/10.5194/os-2020-17
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/os-2020-17
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Submitted as: research article 09 Mar 2020

Submitted as: research article | 09 Mar 2020

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This preprint is currently under review for the journal OS.

Intermediate water masses, a major supplier of oxygen for the eastern tropical Pacific ocean

Olaf Duteil, Ivy Frenger, and Julia Getzlaff Olaf Duteil et al.
  • GEOMAR, Kiel, Germany

Abstract. It is well known that Intermediate Water Masses (IWM) are sinking in high latitudes and ventilate the lower thermocline (500–1500 m depth). We here highlight how the IWM oxygen content and the IWM pathway along the Equatorial Intermediate Current System (EICS) towards the eastern tropical Pacific ocean are essential for the supply of oxygen to the lower thermocline and the Oxygen Minimum Zones (OMZs). To this end, we assess here a heterogeneous subset of ocean models characterized by a horizontal resolution ranging from 0.1° to 2.8°. Subtropical oxygen levels in the lower thermocline, i.e., IWM are statistically correlated with tropical oxygen levels and OMZs. Sensitivity simulations suggest that the oxygen biases of the subtropical IWM oxygen levels contribute to oxygen biases of the tropical thermocline as an increase of the IWM oxygen by 60 mmol m−3 results in a 10 mmol m−3 increase in the tropical ocean in a timescale of 50 years. In the equatorial regions, the IWM recirculates into the Equatorial Intermediate Current System (EICS). By comparing tracer and particle release simulations, we show that a developed EICS increases eastern tropical ventilation by 30 %. Typical climate models lack in representing crucial aspects of this supply: biases in IWM properties are prominent across climate models and the EICS is basically absent in models with typical resolutions of ~ 1°. We emphasize that these biases need to be reduced in global climate models to allow reliable projections of OMZs in a changing climate.

Olaf Duteil et al.

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Olaf Duteil et al.

Olaf Duteil et al.

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Latest update: 28 Mar 2020
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Short summary
Tropical oxygen minimum zones expanded during the last decades. One of the process responsible of the supply of oxygen in the eastern tropical regions is the transport of oxygen-rich water masses originating from the high latitudes. We highlight that most of current climate numerical models present strong biases : high latitude and tropical oxygen levels are too low and the deep currents systems are too weak. These biases need to be reduced to perform reliable projections in a changing climate.
Tropical oxygen minimum zones expanded during the last decades. One of the process responsible...
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