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The Pacific Subsurface Countercurrents and an Inertial Model

Gregory C. Johnson and Dennis W. Moore

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration/Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory, Seattle, Washington

Journal of Physical Oceanography, 27, 2448-2459
Not subject to U.S. copyright. Published in 1997 by the American Meterological Society.


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.

1. Introduction
2. Data and data reduction
3. Mean meridional sections of properties and transports
4. Isopycnal maps
5. An inertial model
6. Discussion and Acknowledgements

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