National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration
United States Department of Commerce

[Full Text]

FY 1998

The Pacific subsurface countercurrents and an inertial model

Johnson, G.C., and D.W. Moore

J. Phys. Oceanogr., 27(11), 2448–2459, doi: 10.1175/1520-0485(1997)027<2448:TPSCAA>2.0.CO;2 (1997)

The Tsuchiya jets, or subsurface countercurrents, extend across the Pacific Ocean carrying 7 (±2) × 106 m3 s-1 eastward on each side of the equator. Mean meridional sections of potential temperature, salinity, neutral density anomaly, and the square of buoyancy frequency are presented for the western, central, and eastern tropical Pacific Ocean. These sections are used together with maps of depth and salinity on isopycnals, as well as thickness between isopycnals, to describe the evolution of the Tsuchiya jets as they flow from west to east. An inertial-jet model is formulated in which conservation of the Bernoulli function and potential vorticity combine with the eastward shoaling of the tropical pycnocline to dictate the jet structure. This model jet is consistent with a number of features of the Tsuchiya jets: their roughly constant volume transports, their advection of properties such as salinity and oxygen over long zonal distances, their rapidity and narrowness, their poleward shift from west to east, the large potential vorticity gradients across them, and the pycnostad between them that builds in size and strength from west to east. However, an observed decrease in density carried by the Tsuchiya jets from west to east, not included in the model jet, suggests that diffusive or advective interaction with the surrounding ocean also may be important in subsurface countercurrent dynamics.

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