National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration
United States Department of Commerce


FY 2010

The WOCE-era 3-D Pacific Ocean circulation and heat budget

Macdonald, A.M., S. Mecking, P.E. Robbins, J.M. Toole, G.C. Johnson, L. Talley, M. Cook, and S.E. Wijffels

Prog. Oceanogr., 82, 281–325, doi: 10.1016/j.pocean.2009.08.002 (2010)

To address questions concerning the intensity and spatial structure of the three-dimensional circulation within the Pacific Ocean and the associated advective and diffusive property flux divergences, data from approximately 3000 high-quality hydrographic stations collected on 40 zonal and meridional cruises have been merged into a physically consistent model. The majority of the stations were occupied as part of the World Ocean Circulation Experiment (WOCE), which took place in the 1990s. These data are supplemented by a few pre-WOCE surveys of similar quality, and time-averaged direct-velocity and historical hydrographic measurements about the equator. An inverse box model formalism is employed to estimate the absolute along-isopycnal velocity field, the magnitude and spatial distribution of the associated diapycnal flow and the corresponding diapycnal advective and diffusive property flux divergences. The resulting large-scale WOCE Pacific circulation can be described as two shallow overturning cells at mid- to low latitudes, one in each hemisphere, and a single deep cell which brings abyssal waters from the Southern Ocean into the Pacific where they upwell across isopycnals and are returned south as deep waters. Upwelling is seen to occur throughout most of the basin with generally larger dianeutral transport and greater mixing occurring at depth. The derived pattern of ocean heat transport divergence is compared to published results based on air–sea flux estimates. The synthesis suggests a strongly east/west oriented pattern of air–sea heat flux with heat loss to the atmosphere throughout most of the western basins, and a gain of heat throughout the tropics extending poleward through the eastern basins. The calculated meridional heat transport agrees well with previous hydrographic estimates. Consistent with many of the climatologies at a variety of latitudes as well, our meridional heat transport estimates tend toward lower values in both hemispheres.

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