Skip to main content

Free Content The nonlinear response of an equatorial ocean to oscillatory forcing

Download Article:
(PDF 1527.9990234375 kb)


The effect of upper ocean variability on deep equatorial flow is simulated by prescribing a forcing wave field near the eastern boundary in a one and a half layer shallow water model. Equatorially trapped long Rossby waves are generated by the forcing, have approximately linear dynamics, and propagate westward. Near the western boundary the dynamics are nonlinear, and there is a large mean flow. With forcing symmetric about the equator, the nonlinear response has two distinct phases. When the interior flow in the vicinity of the equator is westward near the western boundary, a poleward flowing western boundary current forms. This flow separates from the boundary several deformation radii away from the equator. When the interior flow is eastward, a recirculation gyre sets up. This gyre has dynamics similar to the mid-latitude recirculation of the Gulf Stream. The zonal scale of the gyre depends not only on the amplitude of the interior wave field, but also on the period of oscillation and the magnitude of the viscosity. The meridional structure and amplitude of the zonal flow can be understood using a model of a constant potential vorticity zonally elongated gyre.

The net Lagrangian circulation resulting from the combination of the interior wave field and the nonlinear flow near the western boundary is found by tracking floats in the model. In the interior, fluid parcels move westward along the equator in the Stokes drift of the Rossby waves. The potential vorticity of fluid parcels is altered near the western boundary so that the floats are returned to the interior poleward of the equator. Significant mixing of fluid parcels occurs near the western boundary.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 1993-08-01

More about this publication?
  • 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.
  • Editorial Board
  • Information for Authors
  • Subscribe to this Title
  • Ingenta Connect is not responsible for the content or availability of external websites
  • Access Key
  • Free ContentFree content
  • Partial Free ContentPartial Free content
  • New ContentNew content
  • Open Access ContentOpen access content
  • Partial Open Access ContentPartial Open access content
  • Subscribed ContentSubscribed content
  • Partial Subscribed ContentPartial Subscribed content
  • Free Trial ContentFree trial content
Cookie Policy
Cookie Policy
Ingenta Connect website makes use of cookies so as to keep track of data that you have filled in. I am Happy with this Find out more