Philander, S. George. Program in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey.
Last reviewed:November 2019
- South Equatorial Current
- North Equatorial Countercurrent
- Equatorial Undercurrent
- Time dependence of the currents
- Related Primary Literature
- Additional Reading
Ocean currents near the Equator. The westward trade winds that prevail over the tropical Atlantic and Pacific oceans drive complex oceanic circulations characterized by alternating bands of eastward and westward currents (Fig. 1). The intense currents are confined to the surface layers of the ocean; below a depth of approximately 100 m (330 ft) the temperature is much lower, and the speed of ocean currents is much slower. The westward surface currents tend to be divergent—they are associated with a parting of the surface waters—and therefore entrain cold water from below. The water temperature rises as the currents flow westward, so that temperatures are low in the east and high in the west, except between 3 and 10°N where eastward surface currents create a band of warm water across the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. The distinctive sea surface temperature pattern in which surface waters are warm in the west and cold in the east, except for the warm band just north of the Equator, reflects the oceanic circulation (Fig. 2). A dramatic change in this pattern every few years during El Niño episodes, when the temperature of the eastern tropical Pacific Ocean rises, is associated with an intensification of the eastward currents and a weakening (sometimes reversal) of the westward currents. See also: El Niño
The content above is only an excerpt.
for your institution. Subscribe
To learn more about subscribing to AccessScience, or to request a no-risk trial of this award-winning scientific reference for your institution, fill in your information and a member of our Sales Team will contact you as soon as possible.
to your librarian. Recommend
Let your librarian know about the award-winning gateway to the most trustworthy and accurate scientific information.
AccessScience provides the most accurate and trustworthy scientific information available.
Recognized as an award-winning gateway to scientific knowledge, AccessScience is an amazing online resource that contains high-quality reference material written specifically for students. Contributors include more than 10,000 highly qualified scientists and 45 Nobel Prize winners.
MORE THAN 8700 articles covering all major scientific disciplines and encompassing the McGraw-Hill Encyclopedia of Science & Technology and McGraw-Hill Yearbook of Science & Technology
115,000-PLUS definitions from the McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific and Technical Terms
3000 biographies of notable scientific figures
MORE THAN 19,000 downloadable images and animations illustrating key topics
ENGAGING VIDEOS highlighting the life and work of award-winning scientists
SUGGESTIONS FOR FURTHER STUDY and additional readings to guide students to deeper understanding and research
LINKS TO CITABLE LITERATURE help students expand their knowledge using primary sources of information