** Progress in Earth and Planetary Science is the official journal of the Japan Geoscience Union, published in collaboration with its 50 society members.

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    Progress in Earth and Planetary Science

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    Atmospheric and hydrospheric sciences

    Wind-driven decadal sea surface height and main pycnocline depth changes in the western subarctic North Pacific

    Nagano A, Wakita M

    North Pacific western subarctic gyre, Aleutian Low, SSH, barotropic and baroclinic Rossby waves, wind stress

    Sea surface elevation and main pycnocline deepening at station K2 in association with the northward shrinkage of the western subarctic gyre

    The northward shrinkage of the North Pacific western subarctic gyre (WSAG) in the early 2000s is associated with a sea surface height (SSH) elevation and is correlated to sea surface wind stress change. By using a Rossby wave model forced by wind stress, which computes the component variations due to the barotropic and first to fourth baroclinic modes, we estimated decadal changes in SSH and main pycnocline depth in the subpolar region. Realistic decadal SSH elevation and deepening of the main pycnocline depth associated with the northward shrinkage of the western subarctic gyre from the late 1990s to the mid-2000s were reproduced by the model. The sea surface elevation was caused primarily by the barotropic Rossby wave response to the relaxation of the Ekman suction due to the attenuation of the Aleutian Low by frequent La Niña occurrences after the late 1990s in addition to the long-term weakening of the westerly wind. The northward shrinkage of the WSAG was found to be associated with the intensification of an anticyclonic circulation centered around 43–44 N, 170–175 E. The westerly wind weakening deepened the main pycnocline in the western subarctic region through the baroclinic Rossby wave mode response to the wind stress change, which mostly accounts the equivalent halocline deepening at station K2 (47 N, 160 E). While the first baroclinic mode variation of the water density significantly attenuates during propagation, the higher mode variations, particularly the second and third mode variations, are locally excited through a quasi-resonant amplification mechanism and have profound impacts on the depth of the upper main pycnocline.