Dynamics of the eastern surface jets in the equatorial Indian Ocean

Weiqing Han, Julian P. McCreary, D. L.T. Anderson, Arthur J. Mariano

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148 Scopus citations


An hierarchy of ocean models is used to investigate the dynamics of the eastward surface jets that develop along the Indian Ocean equator during the spring and fall, the Wyrtki jets (WJs). The models vary in dynamical complexity from 2 1/2 -layer to 4 1/2 -layer systems, the latter including active thermodynamics, mixed layer physics, and salinity. To help identify processes, both linear and nonlinear solutions are obtained at each step in the hierarchy. Specific processes assessed are as follows: direct forcing by the wind, reflected Rossby waves, resonance, mixed layer shear, salinity effects, and the influence of the Maldive Islands. In addition, the sensitivity of solutions to forcing by different wind products is reported. Consistent with previous studies, the authors find that direct forcing by the wind is the dominant forcing mechanism of the WJs, accounting for 81% of their amplitude when there is a mixed layer. Reflected Rossby waves, resonance, and mixed layer shear are all necessary to produce jets with realistic strength and structure. Completely new results are that precipitation during the summer and fall considerably strengthens the fall WJ in the eastern ocean by thinning the mixed layer, and that the Maldive Islands help both jets to attain roughly equal strengths. In both the ship-drift data and the authors' 'best' solution (i.e., the solution to the highest model in the authors' hierarchy), the semiannual response is more than twice as large as the annual one, even though the corresponding wind components have comparable amplitudes. Causes of this difference are as follows: the complex zonal structure of the annual wind, which limits the directly forced response at the annual frequency; resonance with the semiannual wind; and mixed layer shear flow, which interferes constructively (destructively) with the rest of the response for the semiannual (annual) component. Even in the most realistic solution, however, the annual component still weakens the fall WJ and strengthens the spring one in the central ocean, in contrast to the ship-drift; this model/data discrepancy may result from model deficiencies, inaccurate driving winds, or from windage errors in the ship-drift data themselves.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2191-2209
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Physical Oceanography
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 1999

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oceanography


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