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Sea Surface Height Variability in the Indian Ocean from TOPEX/POSEIDON Altimetry and Model Simulations

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Sea Surface Height (SSH) variability in the Indian Ocean during 1993-1995 is studied using TOPEX/POSEIDON (T/P) altimetry data. Strong interannual variability is seen in the surface circulation of the western Arabian Sea, especially in the Somali eddy structure. During the Southwest (SW) monsoon, a weak monsoon year is characterized by a single eddy system off Somalia, a strong or normal monsoon year by several energetic eddies. The Laccadive High (LH) and Laccadive Low (LL) systems off southwest India are observed in the altimetric SSH record. The variability of the East India Coastal Current (EICC), the western boundary current in the Bay of Bengal, is also detected. Evidence is found for the propagation of Kelvin and Rossby waves across the northern Indian Ocean; these are examined in the context of energy transfer to the western boundary currents, and associated eddies. A simple wind-driven isopycnal model having three active layers is implemented to simulate the seasonal changes of surface and subsurface circulation in the North Indian Ocean and to examine the response to different wind forcing. The wind forcing is derived from the ERS-1 scatterometer wind stress for the same period as the T/P altimeter data, enabling the model response in different (active/weak) monsoon conditions to be tested. The model output is derived in 10-day snapshots to match the time period of the T/P altimeter cycles. Complex Principal Component Analysis (CPCA) is applied to both altimetric and model SSH data. This confirms that long Rossby waves are excited by the remotely forced Kelvin waves off the southwest coast of India and contribute substantially to the variability of the seasonal circulation in the Arabian Sea.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Center for Ocean Atmospheric Prediction Studies Florida State University Tallahassee, FL, USA 2: School of Ocean and Earth Science Southampton Oceanography Center University of Southampton Southampton, UK

Publication date: July 1, 2000

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