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sea level, North Atlantic, GECCO, decadal

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Interannual to decadal sea level variability on the North Atlantic western boundary is surprisingly coherent over substantial distances stretching from the Caribbean to Nova Scotia. The physical mechanisms responsible for this basin-scale, low-frequency coherence are explored in a diagnosis of simulated ocean fields from GECCO, which reproduces the observations to good approximation. Coastal sea level variability on the western boundary is known to be influenced by meridional divergence in the boundary current resulting in a geostrophic tilting of the sea surface. This mechanism is found to be of leading order along some stretches of the boundary, but it does not account for the coherence spanning the western North Atlantic. Instead, the coherence along the entire boundary is accounted for by vertical divergence resulting in the uniform rise and fall of the sea surface west of the 295°E meridian. The vertical divergence is found to be due to net vertically integrated zonal transport across this meridian resulting from meridional variation in the Sverdrup transport over the basin interior.

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Citation / Publisher Attribution

Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans, v. 119, issue 9, p. 5676-5689

©2014. American Geophysical Union. All Rights Reserved.

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