The wind-driven seasonal circulation in the southern tropical Indian Ocean

Authors

  • Karen E. Woodberry,

  • Mark E. Luther,

  • James J. O'Brien


Abstract

A numerical model of the Indian Ocean, driven by climatological monthly mean winds, realistically simulates the major features of the large scale upper ocean circulation observed in the southern hemisphere and equatorial regions. The principal feature in the tropical Indian Ocean is a basin-wide clockwise southern hemisphere (cyclonic) gyre comprised of the South Equatorial Current to the south, the South Equatorial Countercurrent to the north, and the East African Coastal Current in the west. Rossby waves propagate westward in the shear zone between the South Equatorial Current and the South Equatorial Countercurrent, and are obstructed and partially reflected by the banks along the Seychelles-Mauritius Ridge (60°E). A region of high eddy activity northwest of Madagascar is an extension of the tropical gyre and is a tropical analog to the Gulf Stream recirculation region. Oscillations in meridional transport at the equator have westward phase speed and eastward group velocity and are the result of mixed Rossby-gravity (Yanai) waves forced by oscillations in the highly nonlinear western boundary current region. Oscillations with 40- to 50-day periods are seen in most currents. These oscillations cannot be atmospherically forced, as the shortest period in the mean monthly wind forcing is 60 days. Mean transports in the western basin agree with observations. Small (2 Sv) mean throughflow from the Pacific to the Indian Ocean at the eastern open boundary is due to wind-forced Indian Ocean dynamics alone and is within the range of observations of throughflow from the Pacific.

Ancillary