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Can Pacific Ocean thermocline depth anomalies be simulated by a simple linear vorticity model?

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Perkins, ML and Holbrook, NJ (2001) Can Pacific Ocean thermocline depth anomalies be simulated by a simple linear vorticity model? Journal of Physical Oceanography, 31 (7). pp. 1786-1806. ISSN 1520-0485

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Abstract

This study attempts to reproduce the salient features of the variability in the depth of the thermocline in the
marginally eddy-resolving Parallel Ocean Climate Model (POCM) of Semtner and Chervin, using a simple linear
vorticity model that only permits local Ekman pumping and the propagation of long Rossby waves. The dynamic
upper-ocean variability in the POCM is examined in response to changes in daily European Centre for Medium-
Range Weather Forecasts wind stresses across the tropical and subtropical Pacific Ocean (31°S–31°N) between
1983 and 1989. The POCM provides a complete and physically consistent representation of the state of the
Pacific Ocean, with the phase of the thermocline depth anomalies being consistent with the observed El Nino/
La Nina variations in the near-equatorial zone and southwest Pacific during the decade.
A series of vorticity model sensitivity experiments, incorporating scaled Rossby wave speeds based on recent
observations from the TOPEX/Poseidon satellite altimeter, is used to examine and compare the phase and
amplitude variations in the depth of the internal surface against changes in the depth of the 14°C isotherm (D14,
used as a proxy for the depth of the thermocline, or pycnocline) as simulated in the POCM. This study demonstrates that the simple linear vorticity model can reproduce the Pacific Ocean thermocline depth anomalies
in the interior of the subtropical gyres as simulated by the POCM. These variations are both qualitatively and
quantitatively consistent with an ocean forced by only Ekman pumping and Rossby waves that traverse the
basin, with isolated topographic and background influences. Further, a number of experiments demonstrate that
the phase similarities, from correlation analyses, between results from the POCM and those from the simple
dynamical model are statistically significant (at the 95% level) across the majority of the 11°S, 11°N, and 21°N
transects in the western, central, or eastern Pacific basin. At 11° and 21° latitude, the amplitude of the variability
is similarly comparable across much of the basin. The model is generally less successful at 31° latitude where
higher baroclinic modes of the mean flow become important.

Item Type: Article
Journal or Publication Title: Journal of Physical Oceanography
Page Range: pp. 1786-1806
ISSN: 1520-0485
Identification Number - DOI: 10.1175/1520-0485(2001)031<1786:CPOTDA>2.0.CO;2
Additional Information:

Copyright 2001 American Meteorological Society.

Date Deposited: 14 Jul 2008 12:42
Last Modified: 18 Nov 2014 03:45
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