National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration
United States Department of Commerce


FY 2012

Deep signatures of southern tropical Indian Ocean annual Rossby waves

Johnson, G.C.

J. Phys. Oceanogr., 41(10), 1958–1964, doi: 10.1175/JPO-D-11-029.1 (2011)

The southern tropical Indian Ocean contains a striking forced annual Rossby wave studied previously using satellite altimeter sea-surface-height data, surface wind fields, expendable bathythermograph ocean temperature data, and models. Here the deep reach of this wave and its velocity are analyzed using density-depth profiles and 1000-dbar horizontal drift data from Argo. Significant annual cycles in isopycnal vertical displacements and zonal velocity persist to the deepest pressures to which Argo data can be mapped reliably in the region, 1600–1900 dbar. Phase propagation of the annual cycle of the directly measured zonal velocities at 1000 dbar suggests a zonal wavelength of about 6000 km—about the length of the deep basin in which the wave is found—and a westward phase speed of ~0.2 m s−1. Apparent upward phase propagation in isopycnal vertical displacements suggests energy propagation downward into the abyss. This pattern is clearer accounting for both the potential and kinetic energy of the wave. The largest zonal current associated with this wave has a mid-depth maximum that decays rapidly up through the pycnocline and less rapidly with increasing depth, suggesting a first-vertical-mode structure. The anomalous zonal volume transport of this annually reversing current is ~27 × 106 m3 s-1 across 80°E in mid-November. The peak zonal velocity of 0.06 m s−1 implies a maximum zonal excursion of about 600 km associated with the wave over an annual cycle.

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