The Hawaii to Tahiti Shuttle Experiment

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Science  02 Jan 1981:
Vol. 211, Issue 4477, pp. 22-28
DOI: 10.1126/science.211.4477.22


The Shuttle Experiment conducted between Hawaii and Tahiti from January 1979 to June 1980 was designed to observe the changing equatorial ocean structure and circulation, to study the variations and interactions of the four major equatorial ocean currents, and to develop a scientific basis for their monitoring by simple observations of thermal structure and sea level. Preliminary analyses of the results show that the equatorial thermal structure remains intact during a normal year and that only the positions and intensities of the currents are subject to change. The water transport of the equatorial undercurrent varied from 25 x 106 cubic meters per second in January to 51 x 106 cubic meters per second in July, but also exhibited strong short-term pulsations. The equatorial surface flow responded strongly to the winds at periods of 1 month and longer. An array of drifter buoys in the equatoral countercurrent was subject to very little dispersion while traveling over 4500 kilometers in 4 months. Low-frequency fluctuations in the North Equatorial Countercurrent can be monitored by means of the difference in sea level between Fanning and Majuro.