Annual Adjustment of the Thermocline in the Tropical Pacific Ocean

Bin Wang Department of Meteorology and International Pacific Research Center,* School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology, University of Hawaii, Honolulu, Hawaii

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Renguang Wu Department of Meteorology and International Pacific Research Center,* School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology, University of Hawaii, Honolulu, Hawaii

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Roger Lukas Department of Meteorology and International Pacific Research Center,* School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology, University of Hawaii, Honolulu, Hawaii

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Abstract

In this paper the amplitude-phase characteristics of the annual adjustment of the thermocline in the entire tropical Pacific Ocean are described and numerical experiments with a tropical ocean model are performed to assess the roles of the major wind systems in controlling the annual variation of the thermocline.

In the region between about 8°N and 10°S, the annual adjustment of the thermocline is controlled by both the Ekman pumping and equatorial wave propagation. The local wind stress forcing plays a dominant role in the central North Pacific (3°–8°N, 170°–120°W) where the thermocline exhibits the largest amplitude due to the prominent annual variation of the wind stress curl south of the ITCZ. In the equatorial central Pacific (2°N–5°S, 170°–120°W), the annual cycle also exhibits a pronounced unimodal seasonal variation (deepest in December and shallowest in May–June). This distinctive annual cycle results primarily from the adjustment of the waves, which are excited around 4°N, 110°W by the annual march of the ITCZ and excited in the equatorial western Pacific by the monsoon flows. The December maximum and May–June minimum then propagate westward in the off-equatorial waveguides along 5°N (3°–7°N) and 6°S (3°–9°S) to the western boundary. These annual Rossby waves are reflected at the western ocean boundary. The bimodal annual variation in the equatorial western Pacific is caused by the combined effects of the annual Rossby wave reflection and the monsoon westerly forcing during transitional seasons. The bimodal variations in the equatorial far eastern Pacific are determined by the remote forcing through the eastward propagation of Kelvin waves.

The thermocline variations in the North Pacific poleward of 8°N and in the South Pacific poleward of 10°S form approximately an annual seesaw oscillation with maximum depth occurring in May–June (October–November) and minimum in December (April–May) in the North (South) Pacific. These regions are characterized by an Ekman regime.

* IPRC is sponsored in part by Frontier Research System for Global Change.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Bin Wang, Department of Meteorology, School of Ocean & Earth Science & Technology, University of Hawaii, 2525 Correa Road, Honolulu, HI 96882-2219.

Email: bwang@soest.hawaii.edu

Abstract

In this paper the amplitude-phase characteristics of the annual adjustment of the thermocline in the entire tropical Pacific Ocean are described and numerical experiments with a tropical ocean model are performed to assess the roles of the major wind systems in controlling the annual variation of the thermocline.

In the region between about 8°N and 10°S, the annual adjustment of the thermocline is controlled by both the Ekman pumping and equatorial wave propagation. The local wind stress forcing plays a dominant role in the central North Pacific (3°–8°N, 170°–120°W) where the thermocline exhibits the largest amplitude due to the prominent annual variation of the wind stress curl south of the ITCZ. In the equatorial central Pacific (2°N–5°S, 170°–120°W), the annual cycle also exhibits a pronounced unimodal seasonal variation (deepest in December and shallowest in May–June). This distinctive annual cycle results primarily from the adjustment of the waves, which are excited around 4°N, 110°W by the annual march of the ITCZ and excited in the equatorial western Pacific by the monsoon flows. The December maximum and May–June minimum then propagate westward in the off-equatorial waveguides along 5°N (3°–7°N) and 6°S (3°–9°S) to the western boundary. These annual Rossby waves are reflected at the western ocean boundary. The bimodal annual variation in the equatorial western Pacific is caused by the combined effects of the annual Rossby wave reflection and the monsoon westerly forcing during transitional seasons. The bimodal variations in the equatorial far eastern Pacific are determined by the remote forcing through the eastward propagation of Kelvin waves.

The thermocline variations in the North Pacific poleward of 8°N and in the South Pacific poleward of 10°S form approximately an annual seesaw oscillation with maximum depth occurring in May–June (October–November) and minimum in December (April–May) in the North (South) Pacific. These regions are characterized by an Ekman regime.

* IPRC is sponsored in part by Frontier Research System for Global Change.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Bin Wang, Department of Meteorology, School of Ocean & Earth Science & Technology, University of Hawaii, 2525 Correa Road, Honolulu, HI 96882-2219.

Email: bwang@soest.hawaii.edu

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