Science Meetings

Satellite Estimate of Freshwater Exchange between the Indonesian Seas and the Indian Ocean via the Sunda Strait
Potemra, J.T., Hacker, P.W.. Melnichenko, O., and Maximenko, N.A. (16-Dec-16)

The straits in Indonesia allow for low-latitude exchange of water between the Pacific and Indian Oceans. Collectively known as the Indonesian Throughflow (ITF), this exchange is thought to occur primarily via the Makassar Strait and downstream via the Lombok Strait, Ombai Strait and Timor Passage. The Sunda Strait, between the islands of Sumatra and Java, is a very narrow (~10 km) and shallow (~20m) gap, but it connects the Java Sea directly to the Indian Ocean. Flow through this strait is presumed to be small given the size of the passage, however recent observations from the Aquarius satellite indicate periods of significant freshwater transport, suggesting the Sunda Strait may play a more important role in Pacific to Indian Ocean exchange. The nature of this exchange is short-duration (several days) bursts of freshwater injected into the eastern Indian Ocean superimposed on a mean seasonal cycle. The mean volume transport is small averaging about 0.1 Sv toward the Indian Ocean, but the freshwater transport is non-negligible (estimated at 5.8 mSv). Transport through the strait is hydraulically controlled and directly correlates to the along-strait pressure difference. Episodic low-salinity plumes observed by Aquarius do not, however, appear to be forced by this same mechanism but are instead controlled by convergence of flow at the exit of the Strait in the Indian Ocean. Numerical model results show the fate of this freshwater plume varies with season and is either advected to the northwest along the coast of Sumatra or southerly into the ITF pathway.