In the North Pacific, there is a shallow eastward current called the subtropical countercurrent, which flows across the central subtropical gyre. The present article studies the generation mechanism of the subtropical countercurrent reproduced in an ocean general circulation model (GCM) with a simple geometry, driven by surface wind stress and surface buoyancy forcing. In the ocean GCM, the deep mixed layer occurs in the northern part of subtropical gyre and shoals abruptly in the central subtropical gyre. The mixed layer front, the narrow transition zone of the mixed layer depth, slants from the western central subtropical gyre to the northeast, and the low potential vorticity fluid is formed at the intersection of the mixed layer front and the outcrop line. Since the surface density is almost zonally uniform and the mixed layer front slants northeastward, the minimum potential vorticity fluids on denser isopycnals are formed in the northeastern region, while those on lighter isopycnals are formed in the western region. Subducted and advected southwestward, the low potential vorticity fluid in each isopycnal overlaps that on another isopycnal and makes a thick low potential vorticity pool in the western central subtropical gyre. It is found that the model subtropical countercurrent occurs along the southern edge of this pool.
Journal of Physical Oceanography – American Meteorological Society
Published: May 21, 1997