Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans

Seasonal and interannual variations of the North Equatorial Current bifurcation in a high-resolution OGCM

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Abstract

[1] The variation of the North Equatorial Current (NEC) bifurcation is investigated using results from a high-resolution ocean general circulation model (OGCM). The bifurcation occurs at about 15.5°N for the annual average and is easily identifiable in the upper 500 m, but it varies with time and depth. In agreement with recent observations, during the summer season the NEC bifurcation moves equatorward with a weak poleward shift with depth, while a large poleward movement with a poleward shift with depth is found during the winter season. Vertical mode decomposition indicates that the seasonal variation of the NEC bifurcation is dominated by the first two baroclinic modes. On the interannual timescale, the meridional migration of the NEC bifurcation is strongly influenced by El Niño/Southern Oscillation (ENSO); its correlation with the Southern Oscillation Index exceeds 0.8 in magnitude at depths around the thermocline. The NEC bifurcation occurs at its northernmost position during El Niño years and at its southernmost position during La Niña years. This variation is mainly accounted for by westward propagation of upwelling (downwelling) Rossby waves generated by winds in the central equatorial Pacific and by an anomalous anticyclone (cyclone) located in the western North Pacific when a warm (cold) event matures. The interannual variability of the NEC transport is highly correlated with that of the Mindanao Current (MC) and the Kuroshio transports. It is also found that the interannual variability of the NEC bifurcation latitude is highly correlated with the variations of transports in the NEC and the Kuroshio, but is less correlated with transport variations in the MC.

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