Dynamics of Upwelling Annual Cycle in the Equatorial Pacific Ocean

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A recent work proposed a simple theory based on the framework of Zebiak-Cane (ZC) ocean model, and successfully characterized the equatorial Atlantic upwelling annual cycle as a combination of the local wind-driven Ekman upwelling and nonlocal wind-driven wave upwelling. In the present work, utilizing the same simple framework, we examined the fidelity of the upwelling Pacific annual cycle using observations and simulations from the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 5 (CMIP5). We demonstrated that the theoretical upwelling annual cycles generally match the original upwelling annual cycles in the equatorial Pacific in both observations and CMIP5 simulations. Therefore, this simple formulation can be used to represent the upwelling annual cycle in the equatorial Pacific. Observationally, the equatorial Pacific upwelling annual cycle is dominated by the local wind-driven Ekman upwelling, while the remote wave upwelling is confined near the eastern boundary with little contribution. In CMIP5 simulations, though the theoretical-reconstructed upwelling well-reproduces the original upwelling, the contribution is totally different compared to the observation. The wave upwelling serves as the main contributor instead of the Ekman upwelling. We further demonstrated that such discrepancy is attributable to the bias of the central to eastern equatorial thermocline depth patterns. This amplified, westward-shift wave upwelling weakened the impacts of the Ekman upwelling, and contributes to the entire Pacific equatorial upwelling annual cycle substantially. This implies that a realistic simulation of the equatorial Pacific upwelling annual cycle in models is very sensitive to the careful simulation of the equatorial thermocline depth annual evolutions.

Original languageEnglish
Article number5038
JournalSustainability (Switzerland)
Issue number18
StatePublished - 1 Sep 2019


  • Annual cycle
  • Ekman effects
  • Upwelling
  • Wave effects


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