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Atlantic Equatorial Deep Jets: Space–Time Structure and Cross-Equatorial Fluxes

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  • 1 Institute für Meereskunde, Kiel, Germany
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Abstract

The so-called equatorial stacked jets are analyzed with ship-board observations and moored time series from the Atlantic Ocean. The features are identified and isolated by comparing vertical wavenumber spectra at the equator with those a few degrees from the equator. Mode-filtering gives clear views of the jets in meridional sections, the typical extent being ±1° in latitude. The vertical structure can be well described (explaining 82% of the variance) by N−1-stretched cosines, with a Gaussian amplitude tapering in the vertical. The stretched wavelengths are somewhat variable.

Fitting jets of a fixed (stretched) wavelength to four moored sensors in the depth range 1300–1900 m, allows one to track the vertical phase of the jets with an rms error of 30°–45°. The resulting fit from a 20-month moored time series shows long periods of unchanging jet conditions and intermittent times of high variability. There is no significant vertical propagation on these timescales nor a seasonal reversal. Using a composite from many different experiments, interannual variability is visible, however.

A possible mechanism for the stacked jets is inertial instability, resulting from background meridional shears at the equator. A condition is that the Ertel potential vorticity becomes zero somewhere, due to meridional asymmetries in the zonal flows. The ship-board observations show that this may be approximately fulfilled by the instantaneous zonal low-mode flows at various depths, resulting from an excess of zonal momentum south of the equator most of the time. Inertial instability should act to redistribute this zonal momentum, and our mooring data show indeed persistent northward momentum flux, but not at the depth levels expected. The momentum transport might suggest that the jets can also flux or mix other properties across the equator.

Current affiliation: Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada

Corresponding author address: Uwe Send, Duesternbrooker Weg 20, 24105 Kiel, Germany. Email: usend@ifm.uni-kiel.de

Abstract

The so-called equatorial stacked jets are analyzed with ship-board observations and moored time series from the Atlantic Ocean. The features are identified and isolated by comparing vertical wavenumber spectra at the equator with those a few degrees from the equator. Mode-filtering gives clear views of the jets in meridional sections, the typical extent being ±1° in latitude. The vertical structure can be well described (explaining 82% of the variance) by N−1-stretched cosines, with a Gaussian amplitude tapering in the vertical. The stretched wavelengths are somewhat variable.

Fitting jets of a fixed (stretched) wavelength to four moored sensors in the depth range 1300–1900 m, allows one to track the vertical phase of the jets with an rms error of 30°–45°. The resulting fit from a 20-month moored time series shows long periods of unchanging jet conditions and intermittent times of high variability. There is no significant vertical propagation on these timescales nor a seasonal reversal. Using a composite from many different experiments, interannual variability is visible, however.

A possible mechanism for the stacked jets is inertial instability, resulting from background meridional shears at the equator. A condition is that the Ertel potential vorticity becomes zero somewhere, due to meridional asymmetries in the zonal flows. The ship-board observations show that this may be approximately fulfilled by the instantaneous zonal low-mode flows at various depths, resulting from an excess of zonal momentum south of the equator most of the time. Inertial instability should act to redistribute this zonal momentum, and our mooring data show indeed persistent northward momentum flux, but not at the depth levels expected. The momentum transport might suggest that the jets can also flux or mix other properties across the equator.

Current affiliation: Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada

Corresponding author address: Uwe Send, Duesternbrooker Weg 20, 24105 Kiel, Germany. Email: usend@ifm.uni-kiel.de

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