National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration
United States Department of Commerce


FY 2014

Zonal momentum budget along the equator in the Indian Ocean from a high-resolution ocean general circulation model

Nagura, M., and M.J. McPhaden

J. Geophys. Res., 119(7), 4444–4461, doi: 10.1002/2014JC009895 (2014)

This study examines the zonal momentum budget along the equator in the Indian Ocean in a high-resolution ocean general circulation model. Wyrtki Jets, wind-driven eastward flows in the upper 100 m that appear typically twice per year in boreal spring and fall, are a prominent feature of the ocean circulation in this region. Our results indicate that nonlinearity associated with these jets is an important element of the zonal momentum budget, with wind driven eastward momentum advected downward into the thermocline. This advection results in annually averaged zonal currents that flow against the zonal pressure gradient in the upper 200 m, such that there is no mean subsurface undercurrent in the Indian Ocean as there is in the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. Zonal momentum is further distributed along the equator by zonal advection, with eastward flow substantially enhanced in the eastern basin relative to the western basin. Meridional advection, though generally weak, tends to decelerate surface eastward flow along the equator. These results contrast with those from previous idealized wind-forced model experiments that primarily emphasized the importance of vertical momentum advection. Also, beyond semiannual period fluctuations, significant momentum advection results from a broad range of interacting processes, spanning intraseasonal to interannual time scales. We conclude that proper simulation of zonal flows along the equator in the Indian Ocean, including their climatically relevant impacts on the mass and heat balance, requires accurate representation of nonlinearities that derive from a broad range of time and space scales.

Feature Publications | Outstanding Scientific Publications

Contact Sandra Bigley |