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A Zonal Momentum Balance on Density Layers for the Central and Eastern Equatorial Pacific

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  • 1 CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia
  • | 2 CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research, and Wealth from Oceans Flagship Program, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia
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Abstract

Brown et al. analyzed the kinematics of flow in the equatorial Pacific Ocean, along time-varying isopycnals in a three-dimensional eddy-permitting model. Here the dynamics of these flows is explored in the same model via the zonal momentum equation (ZME). Previous work has shown that the dominant terms of the ZME, on and near the equator, are the pressure gradient, wind stress, and Coriolis term. In one model study, the nonlinear and friction terms were significant but negated each other. In this study, with a higher-resolution model and more realistic friction scheme it is shown that the nonlinear term is important along and north of the equator, while the explicit friction term is negligible. The part of the nonlinear term derived from high-frequency eddy flows acts like a friction on the Equatorial Undercurrent, while the remaining part of the nonlinear term from smooth flows enhances it. In density coordinates, meridional tropical cells lie on either side of the equator in the first half of the year (January–June) as expected. In July–December, a continuous southward surface flow appears from 4°N into the Southern Hemisphere and arises from variations in the geostrophic flow and the nonlinear term. Variations in the geostrophic flow are due to both seasonal variability in the thermocline and a surface bolus effect arising from baroclinic instability. The nonlinear term increases in the surface layers at the same time assisting the southward flow, most likely because of tropical instability waves.

* Current affiliation: Department of Geology and Geophysics, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut

Corresponding author address: Jaclyn N. Brown, Dept. of Geology and Geophysics, Yale University, P.O. Box 208109, New Haven, CT 06520. Email: jaclyn.brown@yale.edu

Abstract

Brown et al. analyzed the kinematics of flow in the equatorial Pacific Ocean, along time-varying isopycnals in a three-dimensional eddy-permitting model. Here the dynamics of these flows is explored in the same model via the zonal momentum equation (ZME). Previous work has shown that the dominant terms of the ZME, on and near the equator, are the pressure gradient, wind stress, and Coriolis term. In one model study, the nonlinear and friction terms were significant but negated each other. In this study, with a higher-resolution model and more realistic friction scheme it is shown that the nonlinear term is important along and north of the equator, while the explicit friction term is negligible. The part of the nonlinear term derived from high-frequency eddy flows acts like a friction on the Equatorial Undercurrent, while the remaining part of the nonlinear term from smooth flows enhances it. In density coordinates, meridional tropical cells lie on either side of the equator in the first half of the year (January–June) as expected. In July–December, a continuous southward surface flow appears from 4°N into the Southern Hemisphere and arises from variations in the geostrophic flow and the nonlinear term. Variations in the geostrophic flow are due to both seasonal variability in the thermocline and a surface bolus effect arising from baroclinic instability. The nonlinear term increases in the surface layers at the same time assisting the southward flow, most likely because of tropical instability waves.

* Current affiliation: Department of Geology and Geophysics, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut

Corresponding author address: Jaclyn N. Brown, Dept. of Geology and Geophysics, Yale University, P.O. Box 208109, New Haven, CT 06520. Email: jaclyn.brown@yale.edu

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