Upper ocean momentum balances in the western equatorial Pacific on the intraseasonal time scale Academic Article uri icon


  • Surface Meteorology, upper ocean current, and hydrographic measurements, collected along a repeated survey pattern and from a central mooring in the western equatorial Pacific during late 1992 to early 1993, were used to analyse upper ocean momentum balances on the intraseasonal time scale. Wind stresses derived from meteorological measurements were compared with numerical weather prediction products. Advection terms in the momentum equations were estimated by planar fits to the current and hydrographic data. Pressure gradient terms were derived from planar fits to the dynamic heights calculated from the hydrographic data, referenced by balancing the momentum equation in a selected layer below the mixed layer. Under prevailing westerly winds, westward pressure gradient forcings of 2x10-7 m s-2 were set up in the western equatorial Pacific, countering the surface wind, while the total advection tended to accelerate the eastward momentum in the surface layer. During both calm wind and westerly wind burst periods, zonal turbulent momentum fluxes estimated from the ocean budgets were comparable with those estimated from microstructure dissipation rate measurements and with zonal wind stresses, so that the zonal momentum could be balanced within error bars. The meridional momentum balances were noisier, which might be due to the fact that the short meridional length scale of the equatorial inertial-gravity waves could contaminate the dynamic signals in the mixed temporal/spatial sampling data, so that the meridional gradient estimates from the planar fits could be biased.

publication date

  • May 2005