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Free Content Seasonal variability of the surface dynamic topography in the tropical Atlantic Ocean

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The seasonal changes of the surface dynamic topography are studied using a merged data set including MDT, XBT and Nansen observations, collected in the 20S–30N tropical Atlantic until 1978. Two regions of maximum seasonal variability appear. One lies north of the equator extending zonally approximately under the mean position of the Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ). The second one is found in the eastern equatorial region (Gulf of Guinea). The two regions vary out of phase and are separated by a pivot point around 25W in the equatorial plane. Another near 180° phase change is observed at the northern edge of the region of maximum seasonal variability north of the equator. These amplitude and phase changes in the surface dynamic topography are related to a double seasonal tilt of the thermocline recently simulated by several two-layer and multilayer models. The seasonal variability of the geostrophic part of the North Equatorial Countercurrent (NECC) and of the South Equatorial Current (SEC) is related to these near-equatorial areas of large seasonal dynamic height variability. Their seasonal variations are almost in phase and are found to be maximum in the northern summer season (July–October) and near zero or reversed in the northern winter-spring season (February–May). The seasonal variability of the surface dynamic topography of the tropical Atlantic appears to be in relation to two phenomena: (i) a northern equatorial oceanic response due to the local effect of the seasonal migration of the ITCZ associated to the wind stress change; (ii) an equatorial eastern oceanic response possibly due to the remote effect of this wind stress change and the associated local thermodynamic effects.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: May 1, 1985

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  • The Journal of Marine Research publishes peer-reviewed research articles covering a broad array of topics in physical, biological and chemical oceanography. Articles that deal with processes, as well as those that report significant observations, are welcome. In the area of biology, studies involving coupling between ecological and physical processes are preferred over those that report systematics. Authors benefit from thorough reviews of their manuscripts, where an attempt is made to maximize clarity. The time between submission and publication is kept to a minimum; there is no page charge.
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