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The Striking Deep Current Reversal In The Tropical Pacific Ocean

Paris, France (SPX) Nov 14, 2006
Knowledge of ocean current circulation made great advances from the 1980s with the general use of current meters applying the Doppler effect.
The ocean's immense heat storage capacity means that it has a dominant role in the regulation of heat exchange and of the Earth's climate. And it is the ocean's currents that drive thermal exchanges between ocean and atmosphere and contribute to climate balance. This they do in transporting warm- and cold-water masses from the Equator to the poles.
The near-surface currents are generated essentially by the winds, whereas the deeper ones (known as thermohaline currents) result from water density variations induced by differences in temperature and salinity between the distinct masses. The prevailing winds in the tropical Pacific, the trade winds, blow from the American continent towards Asia, causing the warm surface waters to drift in a general East-West direction.
As they approach the Asian continent, these waters accumulate, then change direction, part of them turning North and feeding the Kuroshio (the equivalent in the Pacific of the Gulf Stream), part going South to join up with the East Australian current, another portion flowing at depth and feeding the Equatorial Undercurrent (EUC), which runs at between 100 and 150 m below the surface.
The EUC flows along the Equator, from Papua New Guinea to the Galapagos Islands, counter to the trade winds. That current extends over a width of nearly 300 km and transports a large mass of water eastwards (1), at a maximum velocity of around 2 knots (1 m/s or 3.6 km/h).

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