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Title: On the Formation of a Subsurface Weakly Sheared Laminar Layer and an Upper Thermocline Strongly Sheared Turbulent Layer in the Eastern Equatorial Pacific: Interplays of Multiple-Time-Scale Equatorial Waves
Abstract The origins of an observed weakly sheared nonturbulent (laminar) layer (WSL), and a strongly sheared turbulent layer above the Equatorial Undercurrent core (UCL) in the eastern equatorial Pacific are studied, based mainly on the data from the Tropical Atmosphere and Ocean mooring array. Multiple-time-scale (from 3 to 25 days) equatorial waves were manifested primarily as zonal velocity oscillations with the maximum amplitudes (from 10 to 30 cm s −1 ) occurring at different depths (from the surface to 85-m depths) above the seasonal thermocline. The subsurface-intensified waves led to vertically out-of-phase shear variations in the upper thermocline via destructive interference with the seasonal zonal flow, opposing the tendency for shear instability. These waves were also associated with depth-dependent, multiple-vertical-scale stratification variations, with phase lags of π /2 or π , further altering stability of the zonal current system to vertical shear. The WSL and UCL were consequently formed by coupling of multiple equatorial waves with differing phases, particularly of the previously identified equatorial mode and subsurface mode tropical instability waves (with central period of 17 and 20 days, respectively, in this study), and subsurface-intensified waves with central periods of 6, 5, and 12 days and velocity maxima at 45-, 87-, and 40-m depths, respectively. In addition, a wave-like feature with periods of 50–90 days enhanced the shear throughout the entire UCL. WSLs and UCLs seem to emerge without a preference for particular tropical instability wave phases. The generation mechanisms of the equatorial waves and their joint impacts on thermocline mixing remain to be elucidated.  more » « less
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Author(s) / Creator(s):
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Date Published:
Journal Name:
Journal of Physical Oceanography
Page Range / eLocation ID:
2907 to 2930
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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