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Origins and Dynamics of the 90-Day and 30–60-Day Variations in the Equatorial Indian Ocean

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  • 1 Program in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado
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Abstract

Sea level observations in the equatorial Indian Ocean show a dominant spectral peak at 90 days and secondary peaks at 30–60 days over an intraseasonal period (20–90 days). A detailed investigation of the origins and dynamics of these variations is carried out using an ocean general circulation model, namely, the Hybrid Coordinate Ocean Model (HYCOM). Two parallel experiments are performed in the tropical Indian Ocean basin for the period 1988–2001: one is forced by NCEP 3-day mean forcing fields together with the Climate Prediction Center (CPC) Merged Analysis of Precipitation (CMAP) pentad precipitation, and the other is forced by monthly mean fields. To help to understand the role played by the wind-driven equatorial wave dynamics, a linear continuously stratified ocean model is also used. Both the observed and modeled 90-day sea level anomaly fields and HYCOM surface current clearly show equatorial Kelvin and first-meridional-mode Rossby wave structures that are forced by the 90-day winds. The wind amplitude at the 90-day period, however, is weaker than that for the 30–60-day period, suggesting that the equatorial Indian Ocean selectively responds to the 90-day winds. This selective response arises mainly from the resonant excitation of the second-baroclinic-mode (n = 2) waves by the 90-day winds. In this case, Rossby waves reflected from the eastern ocean boundary enhance the directly forced response in the ocean interior, strengthening the 90-day peak. In addition, the directly forced response increases monotonically with the increase of forcing period, contributing to the larger variances of currents and sea level at 90 days. Two factors account for this monotonic increase in directly forced response. First, at lower frequency, both Rossby and Kelvin waves associated with the low-order baroclinic modes have longer wavelengths, which are more efficiently excited by the larger-scale winds. Second, responses of the high-order modes directly follow the local winds, and their amplitudes are proportional to both forcing period and wind strength. Although most energy is surface trapped, there is a significant amount that propagates through the pycnocline into the deep ocean. The dominance of the 90-day peak occurs not only at the surface but also in the deeper layers down to 600 m. In the deeper ocean, both the directly forced response and reflected waves associated with the first two baroclinic modes contribute to the 90-day variation. Spectra of the observed sea surface temperature (SST) also show a 90-day peak, likely a result of the selective response of the equatorial Indian Ocean at the 90-day period. Near the surface, the spectral peaks of currents and sea level at the 30–60-day period are directly forced by winds that peak at 30–60 days. In the deeper layers, both directly forced and reflected waves associated with the first two baroclinic modes contribute. Oceanic instabilities can have significant contributions only near the western boundary and near 5°N south of Sri Lanka.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Weiqing Han, PAOS, University of Colorado, Campus Box 311, Boulder, CO 80309. Email: whan@enso.colorado.edu

Abstract

Sea level observations in the equatorial Indian Ocean show a dominant spectral peak at 90 days and secondary peaks at 30–60 days over an intraseasonal period (20–90 days). A detailed investigation of the origins and dynamics of these variations is carried out using an ocean general circulation model, namely, the Hybrid Coordinate Ocean Model (HYCOM). Two parallel experiments are performed in the tropical Indian Ocean basin for the period 1988–2001: one is forced by NCEP 3-day mean forcing fields together with the Climate Prediction Center (CPC) Merged Analysis of Precipitation (CMAP) pentad precipitation, and the other is forced by monthly mean fields. To help to understand the role played by the wind-driven equatorial wave dynamics, a linear continuously stratified ocean model is also used. Both the observed and modeled 90-day sea level anomaly fields and HYCOM surface current clearly show equatorial Kelvin and first-meridional-mode Rossby wave structures that are forced by the 90-day winds. The wind amplitude at the 90-day period, however, is weaker than that for the 30–60-day period, suggesting that the equatorial Indian Ocean selectively responds to the 90-day winds. This selective response arises mainly from the resonant excitation of the second-baroclinic-mode (n = 2) waves by the 90-day winds. In this case, Rossby waves reflected from the eastern ocean boundary enhance the directly forced response in the ocean interior, strengthening the 90-day peak. In addition, the directly forced response increases monotonically with the increase of forcing period, contributing to the larger variances of currents and sea level at 90 days. Two factors account for this monotonic increase in directly forced response. First, at lower frequency, both Rossby and Kelvin waves associated with the low-order baroclinic modes have longer wavelengths, which are more efficiently excited by the larger-scale winds. Second, responses of the high-order modes directly follow the local winds, and their amplitudes are proportional to both forcing period and wind strength. Although most energy is surface trapped, there is a significant amount that propagates through the pycnocline into the deep ocean. The dominance of the 90-day peak occurs not only at the surface but also in the deeper layers down to 600 m. In the deeper ocean, both the directly forced response and reflected waves associated with the first two baroclinic modes contribute to the 90-day variation. Spectra of the observed sea surface temperature (SST) also show a 90-day peak, likely a result of the selective response of the equatorial Indian Ocean at the 90-day period. Near the surface, the spectral peaks of currents and sea level at the 30–60-day period are directly forced by winds that peak at 30–60 days. In the deeper layers, both directly forced and reflected waves associated with the first two baroclinic modes contribute. Oceanic instabilities can have significant contributions only near the western boundary and near 5°N south of Sri Lanka.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Weiqing Han, PAOS, University of Colorado, Campus Box 311, Boulder, CO 80309. Email: whan@enso.colorado.edu

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