Mesoscale Ocean Eddies in the North Pacific: Westward Propagation

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Science  11 Jan 1974:
Vol. 183, Issue 4120, pp. 71-72
DOI: 10.1126/science.183.4120.71


A set of subsurface temperature measurements in the trade wind region northeast of Hawaii reveals large perturbations about the mean state, with zonal wavelengths of 480 kilometers. The perturbations are identified as mesoscale baroclinic eddies, and they appear to drift westward at a rate of 4.7 ± 2.0 centimeters per second. The large-scale (〉 1000 kilometers) baroclinic flow at a depth of 200 meters is 1.5 ± 0.7 centimeters per second, also toward the west, and comparable in magnitude with the eddy drift velocity; this finding suggests that the eddy drift is strongly influenced by the large-scale flow. Mesoscale eddies have been discovered in the tropical and subtropical Atlantic Ocean. Their existence in the Pacific Ocean is now confirmed.