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Debasis Sengupta
Retish Senan
B. N. Goswami
, and
Jérôme Vialard


New satellite and in situ observations show large intraseasonal (10–60 day) variability of surface winds and upper-ocean current in the equatorial Indian Ocean, particularly in the east. An ocean model forced by the Quick Scatterometer (QuikSCAT) wind stress is used to study the dynamics of the intraseasonal zonal current. The model has realistic upper-ocean currents and thermocline depth variabilities on intraseasonal to interannual scales. The quality of the simulation is directly attributed to the accuracy of the wind forcing. At the equator, moderate westerly winds are punctuated by strong 10–40-day westerly wind bursts. The wind bursts force swift, intraseasonal (20–50 day) eastward equatorial jets in spring, summer, and fall. The zonal momentum balance is between local acceleration, stress, and pressure, while nonlinearity deepens and strengthens the eastward current. The westward pressure force associated with the thermocline deepening toward the east rapidly arrests eastward jets and, subsequently, generates (weak) westward flow. Thus, in accord with direct observations in the east, the spring jet is a single intraseasonal event, there are intraseasonal jets in summer, and the fall jet is long lived but strongly modulated on an intraseasonal scale. The zonal pressure force is almost always westward in the upper 120 m, and changes sign twice a year in the 120–200-m layer. Transient eastward equatorial undercurrents in early spring and late summer are associated with semiannual Rossby waves generated at the eastern boundary following thermocline deepening by the spring and fall jets. An easterly wind stress is not necessary to generate the undercurrents. Experiments with a single westerly wind burst forcing show that apart from the intraseasonal response, the zonal pressure force and current in the east have an intrinsic 90-day time scale that arises purely from equatorial adjustment.

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