Warming and Freshening in the Abyssal Southeastern Indian Ocean

Johnson, GC, Purkey SG, Bullister JL.  2008.  Warming and Freshening in the Abyssal Southeastern Indian Ocean. Journal of Climate. 21:5351-5363.

Date Published:



basin, bottom water, chlorofluorocarbon, circulation, deep, pacific-ocean, seawater, ventilation, weddell sea, western boundary current


Warming and freshening of abyssal waters in the eastern Indian Ocean between 1994/95 and 2007 are quantified using data from two closely sampled high-quality occupations of a hydrographic section extending from Antarctica northward to the equator. These changes are limited to abyssal waters in the Princess Elizabeth Trough and the Australian-Antarctic Basin, with little abyssal change evident north of the Southeast Indian Ridge. As in previous studies, significant cooling and freshening is observed in the bottom potential temperature-salinity relations in these two southern basins. In addition, analysis on pressure surfaces shows abyssal warming of about 0.05 degrees C and freshening of about 0.01 Practical Salinity Scale 1978 (PSS-78) in the Princess Elizabeth Trough, and warming of 0.1 degrees C with freshening of about 0.005 in the abyssal Australian-Antarctic Basin. These 12-yr differences are statistically significant from zero at 95% confidence intervals over the bottom few to several hundred decibars of the water column in both deep basins. Both warming and freshening reduce the density of seawater, contributing to the vertical expansion of the water column. The changes below 3000 dbar in these basins suggest local contributions approaching 1 and 4 cm of sea level rise, respectively. Transient tracer data from the 2007 occupation qualitatively suggest that the abyssal waters in the two southern basins exhibiting changes have significant components that have been exposed to the ocean surface within the last few decades, whereas north of the Southeast Indian Ridge, where changes are not found, the component of abyssal waters that have undergone such ventilation is much reduced.