Thermocline Circulation in the Solomon Sea: A Modeling Study

Abstract : In the southwest Pacific, thermocline waters connecting the tropics to the equator via western boundary currents (WBCs) transit through the Solomon Sea. Despite its importance in feeding the Equatorial Undercurrent (EUC) and its related potential influence on the low-frequency modulation of ENSO, the circulation inside the Solomon Sea is poorly documented. A model has been implemented to analyze the mean and the seasonal variability of the Solomon Sea thermocline circulation. The circulation involves an inflow from the open southern Solomon Sea, which is distributed via WBCs between the three north exiting straits of the semiclosed Solomon Sea. The system of WBCs is found to be complex. Its main feature, the New Guinea Coastal Undercurrent, splits in two branches: one flowing through Vitiaz Strait and the other one, the New Britain Coastal Undercurrent (NBCU), exiting at Solomon Strait. East of the Solomon Sea, the encounter of the South Equatorial Current (SEC) with the Solomon Islands forms a previously unknown current, which the authors call the Solomon Islands Coastal Undercurrent (SICU). The NBCU, SEC, and SICU participate in the feeding of the New Ireland Coastal Undercurrent (NICU), which retroflects to the Equatorial Undercurrent, providing the most direct western boundary EUC connection, which is particularly active in June-August. The Solomon Sea WBC seasonal variability results from the combination of equatorial dynamics, remotely forced Rossby waves north of 10°S, and the spinup and spindown of the subtropical gyre as a response of Rossby waves forced south of 10°S.
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Angélique Mélet, Lionel Gourdeau, William Kessler, Jacques Verron, Jean-Marc Molines. Thermocline Circulation in the Solomon Sea: A Modeling Study. Journal of Physical Oceanography, American Meteorological Society, 2010, 40 (6), pp.1302-1319. ⟨hal-00534041⟩

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