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Summer circulation in the Mexican tropical Pacific

AuthorsTrasviña, Armando; Barton, Eric D.
KeywordsSurface currents
Mesoscale eddies
Geostrophic currents
Issue Date19-Feb-2008
CitationDeep Sea Research Part I: Oceanographic Research Papers 55(5): 587-607 (2008)
AbstractThe main components of large-scale circulation of the eastern tropical Pacific were identified in the mid 20th century, but the details of the circulation at length scales of 102 km or less, the mesoscale field, are less well known particularly during summer. The winter circulation is characterized by large mesoscale eddies generated by intense cross-shore wind pulses. These eddies propagate offshore to provide an important source of mesoscale variability for the eastern tropical Pacific. The summer circulation has not commanded similar attention, the main reason being that the frequent generation of hurricanes in the area renders in situ observations difficult. Before the experiment presented here, the large-scale summer circulation of the Gulf of Tehuantepec was thought to be dominated by a poleward flow along the coast. A drifter-deployment experiment carried out in June 2000, supported by satellite altimetry and wind data, was designed to characterize this hypothesized Costa Rica Coastal Current. We present a detailed comparison between altimetry-estimated geostrophic and in situ currents estimated from drifters. Contrary to expectation, no evidence of a coherent poleward coastal flow across the gulf was found. During the 10-week period of observations, we documented a recurrent pattern of circulation within 500 km of shore, forced by a combination of local winds and the regional-scale flow. Instead of the Costa Rica Coastal Current, we found a summer eddy field capable of influencing large areas of the eastern tropical Pacific. Even in summer, the cross-isthmus wind jet is capable of inducing eddy formation.
Description21 pages, 13 figures.-- Printed version published May 2008.
Full-text version available Open Access at: http://www.iim.csic.es/~barton/html/pdfs.html
Publisher version (URL)http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.dsr.2008.02.002
Appears in Collections:(IIM) Artículos
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