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Authors: Masina, S. 
Title: Instabilities of continuously stratified zonal equatorial jets in a periodic channel model
Issue Date: May-2002
Series/Report no.: /20 (2002)
DOI: 10.5194/angeo-20-729-2002
Keywords: equatorial oceanography
numerical modeling
fronts and jets
Subject Classification03. Hydrosphere::03.01. General::03.01.01. Analytical and numerical modeling 
Abstract: Several numerical experiments are performed in a nonlinear, multi-level periodic channel model centered on the equator with different zonally uniform background flows which resemble the South Equatorial Current (SEC). Analy- sis of the simulations focuses on identifying stability criteria for a continuously stratified fluid near the equator. A 90 m deep frontal layer is required to destabilize a zonally uni- form, 10◦ wide, westward surface jet that is symmetric about the equator and has a maximum velocity of 100 cm/s. In this case, the phase velocity of the excited unstable waves is very similar to the phase speed of the Tropical Instability Waves (TIWs) observed in the eastern Pacific Ocean. The vertical scale of the baroclinic waves corresponds to the frontal layer depth and their phase speed increases as the vertical shear of the jet is doubled. When the westward surface parabolic jet is made asymmetric about the equator, in order to simu- late more realistically the structure of the SEC in the eastern Pacific, two kinds of instability are generated. The oscilla- tions that grow north of the equator have a baroclinic nature, while those generated on and very close to the equator have a barotropic nature. This study shows that the potential for baroclinic instabil- ity in the equatorial region can be as large as at mid-latitudes, if the tendency of isotherms to have a smaller slope for a given zonal velocity, when the Coriolis parameter vanishes, is compensated for by the wind effect.
Description: The author is indebted to S. G. Philander for his assistance throughout this study which was mostly carried out at Princeton University. I thank A. B. G. Bush for reading an earlier version of the manuscript and making many helpful comments. The Editor in Chief thanks J. Vialard and another referee for their help in evaluating this paper.
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