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A Numerical Investigation of the Local Ocean Response to Westerly Wind Burst Forcing in the Western Equatorial Pacific

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  • 1 Graduate School of Oceanography, University of Rhode Island, Narragansett, Rhode Island
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Abstract

Numerical simulations of the local equatorial ocean response to idealized westerly wind burst (WWB) forcing are described. In particular, the authors examine the development and evolution of the subsurface westward jet (SSWJ) that has been observed to accompany these wind events. This westward current is interpreted as the signature of equatorial waves that accompany the downwelling and upwelling that occurs along the edges of the wind forcing region. Some important features of the SSWJ include maximum intensity toward the eastern edge of the forcing region, a time lag between the wind forcing and peak SSWJ development, and an eastward spreading of the SSWJ with time. The effect of wind burst zonal profile, magnitude, duration, and fetch on the SSWJ are explored. The response of an initially resting ocean to WWB forcing is compared with that for model oceans that are spun up with annual-mean surface fluxes and monthly varying fluxes. It is demonstrated that the gross features of the response for the spun up simulations can be well approximated by adding the background zonal current structure prior to the introduction of the wind burst to the initially resting ocean current response to the WWB. This result suggests that the zonal current structure that is present prior to the commencement of WWB forcing plays a key role in determining whether or not a SSWJ will develop.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Raymond A. Richardson, Graduate School of Oceanography, University of Rhode Island, Narragansett, RI 02822.

Email: rayr@auke.gso.uri.edu

Abstract

Numerical simulations of the local equatorial ocean response to idealized westerly wind burst (WWB) forcing are described. In particular, the authors examine the development and evolution of the subsurface westward jet (SSWJ) that has been observed to accompany these wind events. This westward current is interpreted as the signature of equatorial waves that accompany the downwelling and upwelling that occurs along the edges of the wind forcing region. Some important features of the SSWJ include maximum intensity toward the eastern edge of the forcing region, a time lag between the wind forcing and peak SSWJ development, and an eastward spreading of the SSWJ with time. The effect of wind burst zonal profile, magnitude, duration, and fetch on the SSWJ are explored. The response of an initially resting ocean to WWB forcing is compared with that for model oceans that are spun up with annual-mean surface fluxes and monthly varying fluxes. It is demonstrated that the gross features of the response for the spun up simulations can be well approximated by adding the background zonal current structure prior to the introduction of the wind burst to the initially resting ocean current response to the WWB. This result suggests that the zonal current structure that is present prior to the commencement of WWB forcing plays a key role in determining whether or not a SSWJ will develop.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Raymond A. Richardson, Graduate School of Oceanography, University of Rhode Island, Narragansett, RI 02822.

Email: rayr@auke.gso.uri.edu

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