The Great Indo-Pacific Communicator

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Science  18 Jun 2010:
Vol. 328, Issue 5985, pp. 1492-1494
DOI: 10.1126/science.1187273

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A complex ocean current system weaves its way through a network of passages, shallow seas, and deep basins between the Indonesian islands (1). Every second, this Indonesian Throughflow (ITF) carries ∼15 million m3 of warm, relatively low-salinity water from the tropical Pacific to the Indian Ocean (13). The ITF eventually makes its way to the Atlantic Ocean (see the figure), thus contributing to global ocean circulation (1). Through complex but poorly understood feedbacks, including heat and water exchange with the atmosphere, the ITF is influenced by and modulates climate in the Indo-Pacific region (14). A shift in the climate regimes of the tropical Pacific and Indian oceans in the mid-1970s—perhaps in response to global warming (5)—highlights the possible importance of the ITF and its connection to climate phenomena such as the monsoons, the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO), and the Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD).