A Kuroshio Extension System Model Study: Decadal Chaotic Self-Sustained Oscillations
Journal of Physical Oceanography
A model study of the Kuroshio Extension system, in which forcing is provided by a time-independent climatological wind, yields a mean meandering path and a decadal variability of the jet in significant agreement with in situ and altimetric measurements. A reduced-gravity primitive equation ocean model is implemented in a box spanning the whole North Pacific, including a schematic coastline at the western side, and an analytical wind forcing is determined according to the ECMWF and Comprehensive
... F and Comprehensive Ocean-Atmosphere Data Set (COADS) climatologies. The modeled time-averaged Kuroshio Extension shows meanders, northern and southern recirculation regions, and a jet penetration that are in good agreement with the corresponding observed climatological features. This result suggests that intrinsic nonlinear mechanisms are likely to play a major role in determining the meander pattern of the mean flow. The internal low-frequency variability is found to be a chaotic bimodal self-sustained oscillation between an energetic meandering state and a much weaker state with a reduced zonal penetration of the jet. These high and low energy states are found to be very similar to the "elongated" and "contracted" modes of the Kuroshio Extension detected through altimetric measurements; moreover, the characteristic period (of around 10 yr), flow patterns, and transition details of a typical bimodal cycle are found to be in significant agreement with altimeter observations for the period 1992-2004. A complex dynamical mechanism supporting this internal oscillation, and involving the bimodal behavior of the Kuroshio south of Japan, is proposed and discussed. On the basis of these modeling results and of their validation with altimeter data, it is hypothesized that the observed bimodal decadal variability of the Kuroshio Extension is basically due to a self-sustained internal oscillation related to the instability of the Kuroshio south of Japan without any crucial intervention of wind-driven Sverdrup transport fluctuations and of topographic interactions, although such effects certainly play an important role in shaping the finer structure of Kuroshio Extension changes. Finally, in a preliminary analysis of the variability in the framework of nonlinear dynamical systems theory it is suggested that the strange attractor corresponding to the modeled low-frequency variability is associated with a homoclinic orbit produced by a global bifurcation; moreover, transitions between oscillations of different character found for slightly different values of the lateral eddy viscosity and forcing amplitude are conjectured to be due to heteroclinic connections.