Estimating thermohaline variability of the equatorial Pacific Ocean from satellite altimetry
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The vertical thermohaline structure in the western equatorial Pacific is examined with a Gravest Empirical Mode (GEM) diagnosis of in-situ mooring measurements. The poor GEM performance in estimating deep thermohaline variability from satellite altimetry confirms a lack of vertical coherence in the equatorial ocean. Mooring observation reveals layered equatorial water with phase difference up to 6 months between thermocline and sub-thermocline variations. The disjointed layers reflect weak geostrophy and resemble pancake structures in non-rotating stratified turbulence. A coherency theorem is then proved, stating that traditional stationary GEM represents in-phase coherent structure and can not describe vertically out-of-phase variability. The fact that stationary GEM holds both spatial and temporal coherence makes it a unique tool to diagnose vertical coherent structure in geophysical flows. The study also develops a non-stationary GEM projection that captures more than 40% of the thermohaline variance in the equatorial deep water.
KeywordsEquatorial Pacific TRITON buoys Satellite altimetry GEM Vertical coherence
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