Articles

Wind-Driven Ocean Currents and Ekman Transport

Science  11 Dec 1987:
Vol. 238, Issue 4833, pp. 1534-1538
DOI: 10.1126/science.238.4833.1534

Abstract

Oceanographic Engineering of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Woods Hole, MA 02543. Oceanographers have long sought to verify the theoretical Ekman transport relation, which predicts that a steady wind stress acting together with the Coriolis force will produce a transport of water to the right of the wind. In situ measurements of wind and ocean currents provide a detailed view of this phenomenon. By separating the wind-driven current from the measured total current and by averaging over a long record, it is found that the observed transport is consistent with theoretical Ekman transport to within about 10 percent. In this case the wind-driven transport is strongly surface trapped, with 95 percent occurring in the upper 25 meters as a result of fair summer weather.