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Zonal Jets Entering the Coral Sea

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  • 1 Institut de Recherche pour le Développement, Nouméa, New Caledonia
  • | 2 NOAA/Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory, Seattle, Washington
  • | 3 Scripps Institution of Oceanography, La Jolla, California
  • | 4 Institut de Recherche pour le Développement, Nouméa, New Caledonia
  • | 5 LEGOS, Toulouse, France
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Abstract

The South Equatorial Current (SEC) entering the Coral Sea through the gap between New Caledonia and the Solomon Islands was observed by an autonomous underwater vehicle (Spray glider) and an overlapping oceanographic cruise during July–October 2005. The measurements of temperature, salinity, and absolute velocity included high-horizontal-resolution profiles to 600-m depth by the glider, and sparser, 2000-m-deep profiles from the cruise. These observations confirm the splitting of the SEC into a North Vanuatu Jet (NVJ) and North Caledonian Jet (NCJ), with transport above 600 m of about 20 and 12 Sv, respectively. While the 300-km-wide NVJ is associated with the slope of the main thermocline and is thus found primarily above 300 m, the NCJ is a narrow jet about 100 km wide just at the edge of the New Caledonian reef. It extends to at least a 1500-m depth with very little shear above 600 m and has speeds of more than 20 cm s−1 to at least 1000 m. An Argo float launched east of New Caledonia with a parking depth fixed at 1000 m became embedded in the NCJ and crossed the glider/cruise section at high speed about 3 months before the glider, suggesting that the jet is the continuation of a western boundary current along the east side of the island and extends across the Coral Sea to the coast of Australia. In the lee of New Caledonia, the glider passed through a region of eddies whose characteristics are poorly understood.

Corresponding author address: Lionel Gourdeau, IRD, BPA5 Nouméa, New Caledonia. Email: lionel.gourdeau@noumea.ird.nc

Abstract

The South Equatorial Current (SEC) entering the Coral Sea through the gap between New Caledonia and the Solomon Islands was observed by an autonomous underwater vehicle (Spray glider) and an overlapping oceanographic cruise during July–October 2005. The measurements of temperature, salinity, and absolute velocity included high-horizontal-resolution profiles to 600-m depth by the glider, and sparser, 2000-m-deep profiles from the cruise. These observations confirm the splitting of the SEC into a North Vanuatu Jet (NVJ) and North Caledonian Jet (NCJ), with transport above 600 m of about 20 and 12 Sv, respectively. While the 300-km-wide NVJ is associated with the slope of the main thermocline and is thus found primarily above 300 m, the NCJ is a narrow jet about 100 km wide just at the edge of the New Caledonian reef. It extends to at least a 1500-m depth with very little shear above 600 m and has speeds of more than 20 cm s−1 to at least 1000 m. An Argo float launched east of New Caledonia with a parking depth fixed at 1000 m became embedded in the NCJ and crossed the glider/cruise section at high speed about 3 months before the glider, suggesting that the jet is the continuation of a western boundary current along the east side of the island and extends across the Coral Sea to the coast of Australia. In the lee of New Caledonia, the glider passed through a region of eddies whose characteristics are poorly understood.

Corresponding author address: Lionel Gourdeau, IRD, BPA5 Nouméa, New Caledonia. Email: lionel.gourdeau@noumea.ird.nc

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