National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration
United States Department of Commerce


FY 2017

Seasonal cycle of cross-equatorial flow in the central Indian Ocean

Wang, Y., and M.J. McPhaden

J. Geophys. Res., 122(5), 3817–3827, doi: 10.1002/2016JC012537 (2017)

This study investigates the seasonal cycle of meridional currents in the upper layers of central equatorial Indian Ocean using acoustic Doppler current profiler (ADCP) and other data over the period 2004–2013. The ADCP data set collected along 80.5°E is the most comprehensive collection of direct velocity measurements in the central Indian Ocean to date, providing new insights into the meridional circulation in this region. We find that mean volume transport is southward across the equator in the central Indian Ocean in approximate Sverdrup balance with the wind stress curl. In addition, mean westerly wind stress near the equator drives convergent Ekman flow in the surface layer and subsurface divergent geostrophic flow in the thermocline at 50–150 m depths. In response to a mean northward component of the surface wind stress, the maximum surface layer convergence is shifted off the equator to between 0.5° and 1°N. Evidence is also presented for the existence of a shallow equatorial roll consisting of a northward wind-driven surface drift overlaying the southward directed subsurface Sverdrup transport. Seasonal variations are characterized by cross-equatorial transports flowing from the summer to the winter hemisphere in quasi-steady Sverdrup balance with the wind stress curl. In addition, semiannually varying westerly monsoon transition winds lead to semiannual enhancements of surface layer Ekman convergence and geostrophic divergence in the thermocline. These results quantify expectations from ocean circulation theories for equatorial Indian Ocean meridional circulation patterns with a high degree of confidence given the length of the data records.

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