Free Content A wave-induced stirring mechanism in the mid-depth equatorial ocean

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A wave-induced stirring and transport mechanism for the mid-depth equatorial ocean is proposed and examined using both analytic linear equatorial wave solutions and a fully nonlinear reduced-gravity model. The study of kinematic stirring using the linear solutions suggests that a superimposition of a few simple equatorial waves can lead to strong Lagrangian stirring and transport along the equator. In particular, a combination of an annual long Rossby wave and a high-frequency Yanai wave appears to be most effective in producing strong stirring in the interior equatorial region. Further investigations of stirring properties using an inverted, fully nonlinear reduced gravity shallow-water model support the results of the kinematic stirring study. By evaluating the finite-time estimates of Lyapunov exponents, we identified two regions where chaotic stirring is most active. One is the western boundary region where short Rossby waves likely play a dominant role in producing the strong chaotic stirring. The other is the equatorial waveguide where a low-frequency Rossby wave prescribes the pattern of the stirring geometry, and a high-frequency Yanai wave plays a role of stirring the fluid. The proposed stirring mechanism provides a plausible explanation of the observed chlorofluorocarbon distribution found in the mid-depth equatorial Atlantic Ocean.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: May 1, 1996

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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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