Wavenumber–Frequency Spectra of Inertia–Gravity and Mixed Rossby–Gravity Waves in the Equatorial Pacific Ocean Academic Article uri icon


  • Abstract In the 1970s and 1980s, there was considerable interest in near-equatorial variability at periods of days to weeks associated with oceanic equatorial inertia–gravity waves and mixed Rossby–gravity waves. At that time, the measurements available for studying these waves were much more limited than today: most of the available observations were from scattered island tide gauges and a handful of short mooring records. More than a decade of the extensive modern data record from the Tropical Atmosphere Ocean (TAO)/Triangle Trans-Ocean Buoy Network (TRITON) mooring array in the Pacific Ocean is used to reexamine the internal-wave climate in the equatorial Pacific, with a focus on interpretation of the zonal-wavenumber/frequency spectrum of surface dynamic height relative to 500 decibars at periods of 3–15 days and zonal wavelengths exceeding 30° of longitude. To facilitate interpretation of the dynamic height spectrum and identification of equatorial wave modes, the spectrum is decomposed into separate spectra associated with dynamic height fluctuations that are symmetric or antisymmetric about the equator. Many equatorial-wave meridional modes can be identified, for both the first and second baroclinic mode. Zonal-wavenumber/frequency spectra of the zonal and meridional wind stress components are also examined. The observed wind stress spectra are used with linear theory of forced equatorial waves to provide a tentative explanation for the zonal-wavenumber extent of the spectral peaks seen in dynamic height. Examination of the cross-equatorial symmetry properties of the wind stress suggests that virtually all of the large-scale equatorial inertia–gravity and mixed Rossby–gravity waves examined may be sensitive to both zonal and meridional wind stress.

publication date

  • November 1, 2012