Kelvin Wave Propagation over a Sloping Interface and Relationships with El Niño Southern Oscillation


  • Gian Luca Eusebi Borzelli

    Center for Remote Sensing of the Earth (CERSE), Rome, 00153, Italy

  • Arnold Sullivan

    CSIRO, Environment, Aspendale, 3195, Australia

    School of Earth, Atmosphere, and Environment, Monash University, Melbourne, 3800, Australia

Received: 27 January 2024; Revised: 11 March 2024; Accepted: 15 March 2024; Published Online: 26 March 2024


Internal Kelvin Wave (KW) propagation is studied about variations in the sea surface temperature anomaly (SSTA) over the tropical Pacific. Temperature and Salinity (TS) observations have been used to define the vertical structure of the ocean about the propagation properties of KWs. Changes in the vertical structure of the water column determine consistent zonal variations in the wave velocity, with values varying, roughly, from 1.8 to 2.6 m/s. The authors document that KWs are formed regularly at the western boundary of the tropical Pacific, but, in these cases, never overcome the dateline. Occasionally, KWs are generated in the region comprised between 170oE and 170oW, and, on all these occasions, a positive phase of the El Niño Southern Oscillation (El Niño) event is recorded. A model, named Sloping Interface Model (SIM), is proposed to relate changes in the pycnocline depth, associated with transiting KWs, and SST anomaly variations. In the SIM, whose equations are consistent with the Recharge/Discharge paradigm, the ocean is described as a two-layer system and the climatological state, represented by a sloping pycnocline, is maintained by a constant easterly wind stress. Using the SIM and coherently with the Recharge/Discharge paradigm, the authors show that changes in the averaged SSTA over El Niño 3, 3.4 and 4 regions are nearly perfectly correlated to pycnocline displacements due to transiting KWs.


Kelvin Wave propagation; Pycnocline depth; Sea surface temperature; El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO)


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How to Cite

Borzelli, G. L. E., & Sullivan, A. (2024). Kelvin Wave Propagation over a Sloping Interface and Relationships with El Niño Southern Oscillation. Journal of Atmospheric Science Research, 7(2), 1–18.


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