Zonal structure and seasonal variability of the Atlantic Equatorial Undercurrent

W. E. Johns, P. Brandt, B. Bourlès, A. Tantet, A. Papapostolou, A. Houk

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21 Scopus citations


Simultaneous mooring arrays were maintained along the path of the Equatorial Undercurrent (EUC) at three longitudes (23°W, 10°W, and 0°E), from October 2007 to June 2011, as part of the CLIVAR Tropical Atlantic Climate Experiment. The measurements allow for the first time a description of the seasonal cycle and interannual variability of the EUC across the Atlantic basin. The mean transport of the EUC at 23°W is 14.3 ± 0.6 Sv, decreasing to 12.1 ± 0.9 and 9.4 ± 0.6 Sv at 10°W and 0°E, respectively. The EUC shows a changing seasonal cycle across the basin: at 23°W, the strongest EUC transport occurs in boreal fall in association with maximum easterly wind stress, at 10°W the EUC transport shows a semiannual cycle with a maximum in boreal spring and fall, while at 0°E the EUC has a single spring maximum. At all locations the EUC core exhibits a similar seasonal vertical migration, with shallowest core depths occurring in boreal spring and deepest core depths in boreal fall. The maximum core intensity occurs in boreal spring all across the basin, when the EUC is shallow, during the annual wind relaxation. The weakest EUC core intensity occurs during the boreal summer cold tongue phase, especially in the eastern part of the basin. At both 23°W and 10°W, a deep extension of the EUC occurs in boreal summer, which increases the transport in the lower thermocline and partially offsets the weaker upper EUC transport during boreal summer. No clear linkage could be established between the interannual variability of the EUC in the eastern part of the basin and the intensity of the summer cold tongue, despite evidence for such a linkage in the western part of the basin.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3047-3069
Number of pages23
JournalClimate Dynamics
Issue number11
StatePublished - Dec 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science


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