The Southwest Pacific Ocean circulation and climate experiment (SPICE)

Ganachaud, A, Cravatte S, Melet A, Schiller A, Holbrook NJ, Sloyan BM, Widlansky MJ, Bowen M, Verron J, Wiles P, Ridgway K, Sutton P, Sprintall J, Steinberg C, Brassington G, Cai W, Davis R, Gasparin F, Gourdeau L, Hasegawa T, Kessler W, Maes C, Takahashi K, Richards KJ, Send U.  2014.  The Southwest Pacific Ocean circulation and climate experiment (SPICE). Journal of Geophysical Research-Oceans. 119:7660-7686.

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coral sea, east australian current, equatorial, great-barrier-reef, jets, meridional overturning circulation, new-caledonia, sea-surface temperature, simulated passive tracer, solomon sea, southwest pacific, SPCZ, SPICE, spiciness, tropical pacific, wind stresses


The Southwest Pacific Ocean Circulation and Climate Experiment (SPICE) is an international research program under the auspices of CLIVAR. The key objectives are to understand the Southwest Pacific Ocean circulation and the South Pacific Convergence Zone (SPCZ) dynamics, as well as their influence on regional and basin-scale climate patterns. South Pacific thermocline waters are transported in the westward flowing South Equatorial Current (SEC) toward Australia and Papua-New Guinea. On its way, the SEC encounters the numerous islands and straits of the Southwest Pacific and forms boundary currents and jets that eventually redistribute water to the equator and high latitudes. The transit in the Coral, Solomon, and Tasman Seas is of great importance to the climate system because changes in either the temperature or the amount of water arriving at the equator have the capability to modulate the El Nino-Southern Oscillation, while the southward transports influence the climate and biodiversity in the Tasman Sea. After 7 years of substantial in situ oceanic observational and modeling efforts, our understanding of the region has much improved. We have a refined description of the SPCZ behavior, boundary currents, pathways, and water mass transformation, including the previously undocumented Solomon Sea. The transports are large and vary substantially in a counter-intuitive way, with asymmetries and gating effects that depend on time scales. This paper provides a review of recent advancements and discusses our current knowledge gaps and important emerging research directions. Key Points Southwest Pacific WBCs transport large volumes toward the equator and the pole Pathways are complex; water properties tend to erode during the transit Variations due to seasons, ENSO and the SPCZ modulate the relative WBC strengths