Annual cycle of equatorial zonal currents in the Pacific

Noel Keenlyside, Richard Kleeman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Observational (Tropical Atmosphere-Ocean array) data on the annual cycle of upper ocean zonal currents on the equator are analyzed using a simple dynamical ocean model in order to investigate underlying dynamics. The model, by treating linear and nonlinear terms semi-independently, allows a separation of various linear and nonlinear effects. The model focuses on linear dynamics of low-order baroclinic modes. By realistically simulating the vertical structure of annual cycle, the model shows that linear dynamics determines the vertical and meridional structure of the annual cycle. Nonlinearity is weak and only important in the undercurrent, where it provides a simple mechanism for the annual cycle: mean meridional advection of the annual cycle north of the equator onto the equator, with the boreal springtime surge in the undercurrent being a direct result of a surge centered at 2°N. Model results show that annual variations in zonal currents are out of phase across the equator, surging in the corresponding spring. This behavior is a response to trade wind variations, which are also equatorially antisymmetric, and is generated by the second meridional mode Rossby wave.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)8-1 - 8-13
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Oceans
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 15 2002


  • Baroclinic mode model
  • Equatorial ocean currents
  • Equatorial undercurrent
  • Equatorial waves
  • Tropical Pacific
  • Zonal momentum balance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Geophysics
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Atmospheric Science
  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Oceanography


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