Observations of the Mindanao Current during the western equatorial Pacific Ocean circulation study


  • Roger Lukas,

  • Eric Firing,

  • Peter Hacker,

  • Philip L. Richardson,

  • Curtis A. Collins,

  • Rana Fine,

  • Richard Gammon


The Western Equatorial Pacific Ocean Circulation Study (WEPOCS) III expedition was conducted from June 18 through July 31, 1988, in the far western equatorial Pacific Ocean to observe the low-latitude western boundary circulation there, with emphasis on the Mindanao Current. This survey provides the first quasi-synoptic set of current measurements which resolve all of the important upper-ocean currents in the western tropical Pacific. Observations were made of the temperature, salinity, dissolved oxygen, and current profiles with depth; of water mass properties including transient tracers; and of evolving surface flows with a dense array of Lagrangian drifters. This paper provides a summary of the measurements and a preliminary description of the results. The Mindanao Current was found to be a narrow, southward-flowing current along the eastward side of the southern Philippine Islands, extending from 14°N to the south end of Mindanao near 6°N, where it then separates from the coast and penetrates into the Celebes Sea. The current strengthens to the south and is narrowest at 10°N. Direct current measurements reveal transports in the upper 300 m increasing from 13 Sv to 33 Sv (1 Sverdrup = 1 × 106 m3 s−1) between 10°N and 5.5°N. A portion of the Mindanao Current appears to recurve cyclonically in the Celebes Sea to feed the North Equatorial Countercurrent, merging with waters from the South Equatorial Current and the New Guinea Coastal Undercurrent. Another portion of the Mindanao Current appears to flow directly into the NECC without entering the Celebes Sea. The turning of the currents into the NECC is associated with the Mindanao and Halmahera eddies.