Current and Thermal Variations to Westerly Wing Bursts in the Equatorial Pacific Ocean

Abstract

The observed upper ocean zonal current, 20°C isotherm depth, and zonal wind stress, calculated from the European Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) model output, were examined in the equatorial Pacific during the period of frequent Westerly Wind Bursts (WWBs) in the period October-April from 1988 (La Niña year) to 1992 (El Niño year). WWBs increased in strength and number, shifting eastwardly towards El Niño, and causing the frequent reversal of surface current, and its vertical gradient within the western basin. Similar features were also observed in the west-central basin, but only during the El Niño event. The reversal of surface zonal current in the central and eastern basins was generally accompanied by surfacing of the Equatorial Undercurrent (EUC), though the vertical gradient of zonal current velocity in the upper ocean never reversed. Fluctuations in upper ocean zonal currents in response to the WWBs were largest in the western basin, while fluctuations in 20°C isotherm depths were largest in the central and eastern basins. Discernible peaks in ocean responses due to WWBs were modulated in their propagation away from the forced region.

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