Circulation and variability in the Chile Basin

Gary Shaffer, Samuel Hormazabal, Oscar Pizarro, Marcel Ramos

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32 Scopus citations


Current observations at several depths between 250 and 3750m are reported from a 30°S, deep sea site 150km off the Chile coast for the period July 1993-June 2001. These results are used with current observations from a nearby slope site, satellite altimeter data, and hydrographic and Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler data from the WOCE P6E section along 32.5°S to address mean and variable flow in the Chile Basin. Strong current variability in the upper ocean for periods more than 100 days is explained in terms of remotely forced Rossby waves, local baroclinic instabilities of coastal currents and variable wind forcing. Intraseasonal to seasonal current variability at the deep ocean site was greatest during La Niña events while intraseasonal variability at the slope site was greatest during the 1997-1998 El Niño event. Mean westward and poleward flow was observed at all depths at the deep sea site but upper ocean means were not significantly different from zero. There was a well-defined, mean poleward flow of 0.6±0.3cms-1 at 2450m depth there. Geostrophic current calculations are presented for the P6E section with levels of no motion based on our current observations and other constraints. These reference choices yield reasonable and consistent results for the steady-state heat balance of the deep Chile and Peru Basins. Results show a deep equatorward flow of 3-4Sv on the eastern flank of the East Pacific Rise and a deep poleward boundary flow of about 10Sv within 1500km of the Chile coast. Up to half of the total mid-depth outflow of the South Pacific may take place east of the Rise. Thus the deep poleward boundary current off Chile is a major component of the deep circulation of the global ocean but the dynamics of this current remain a puzzle.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1367-1386
Number of pages20
JournalDeep-Sea Research Part I: Oceanographic Research Papers
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2004
Externally publishedYes


  • Abyssal circulation
  • Chile Basin
  • Current measurement
  • Deep currents
  • Eastern South Pacific Ocean
  • Eastern boundary currents


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