Origin and pathway of equatorial 13°C water in the Pacific identified by a simulated passive tracer and its adjoint

Tangdong Qu, Shan Gao, Ichiro Fukumori, Rana A. Fine, Eric J. Lindstrom

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34 Scopus citations


The origin and pathway of the thermostad water in the eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean, often referred to as the equatorial 13°C Water, are investigated using a simulated passive tracer and its adjoint, based on circulation estimates of a global general circulation model. Results demonstrate that the source region of the 13°C Water lies well outside the tropics. In the South Pacific, some 13°C Water is formed northeast of New Zealand, confirming an earlier hypothesis on the water's origin. The South Pacific origin of the 13°C Water is also related to the formation of the Eastern Subtropical Mode Water (ESTMW) and the Sub-Antarctic Mode Water (SAMW). The portion of the ESTMW and SAMW that eventually enters the density range of the 13°C Water (25.8 < σθ < 26.6 kg m-3) does so largely by mixing. Water formed in the subtropics enters the equatorial region predominantly through the western boundary, while its interior transport is relatively small. The fresher North Pacific ESTMW and Central Mode Water (CMW) are also important sources of the 13°C Water. The ratio of the southern versus the northern origins of the water mass is about 2 to 1 and tends to increase with time elapsed from its origin. Of the total volume of initially tracer-tagged water in the eastern equatorial Pacific, approximately 47.5% originates from depths above σθ = 25.8 kg m-3 and 34.6% from depths below σθ = 26.6 kg m-3, indicative of a dramatic impact of mixing on the route of subtropical water to becoming the 13°C Water. Still only a small portion of the water formed in the subtropics reaches the equatorial region, because most of the water is trapped and recirculates in the subtropical gyre.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1836-1853
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Physical Oceanography
Issue number8
StatePublished - 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oceanography


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