Research on tracking through flowing water in Indonesia has progressed

Recently, Wang Fan, a researcher at the Institute of Oceanography of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, made new research progress in the flow path and destination of Indonesian through-flow (ITF) water bodies in the Indian Ocean, and the research results were published in the international academic journal Journal of Climate.

The main flow paths, transport volumes, main destinations and transit time of the Indonesian through-flow (ITF) water body Photo courtesy of the Institute of Oceanography

The ITF is the only low-latitude connection channel between the Pacific and Indian Oceans, and the flow path of the ITF’s water body through the Indian Ocean is the basic layer branch in the conceptual map of the global ocean conveyor belt, which has a profound impact on the Indo-Pacific hot salt budget, the formation of deep Atlantic water, meridional overturning circulation, and regional and global climate.

Most ITF bodies in the Indian Ocean eventually join the subtropical western boundary current, the Agulhas Current. At the southern tip of the continent, only a small portion of the water body can penetrate into the Atlantic Ocean through the Agulhas overflow, and most of the water body turns eastward to return to the southern Indian Ocean in the form of the Agulhas reflux.

However, the whereabouts of this body of water have not yet been specifically studied, and it is possible that it will flow eastward through the Antarctic circumpolar current and return to the Pacific Ocean. In addition, part of the ITF water body will turn south in the eastern Indian Ocean, joining the Eastern Boundary Current-Rowen Current, which may return to the Pacific Ocean through the narrow passage of southern Australia. Therefore, compared to the current relatively well-established Atlantic Ocean destination, the understanding of the Pacific Ocean destination of ITF water bodies is very limited. 

According to reports, based on the three-dimensional flow field data of seven sets of model and reanalysis datasets and the Lagrange tracking method, Wang Fan’s research team revealed the Pacific Ocean destination of ITF water bodies, quantified the water transport of important branches, and summarized the main flow paths in the Indian Ocean.

The results show that there is an ITF water body going to the Pacific Ocean, and the ratio of water transport to the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean is 1.60±0.54 to 1, and the uncertainty represents the diffusion between different data. The transmission time of ITF water bodies across the Indian Ocean to the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans is 10-20 and 15-30 years, respectively; The recycling structure of the Southwest Subtropical Indian Ocean provides another opportunity for ITF water bodies to enter the Atlantic Ocean, while the Antarctic Circumpolar Current in the Southern Ocean is the main channel for ITF water bodies to return to the Pacific Ocean; The vertical movement of the interior of the Indian Ocean helps the ITF bodies of water leave the Indian Ocean.

The results of this study will provide important support for researchers to better understand the movement path of ITF water bodies and enrich the understanding of the ocean conveyor belt in the Indian Ocean. 

The research was supported by the Strategic Leading Science and Technology Project of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the National Key R&D Program, the Natural Science Foundation of Shandong Province and the China Postdoctoral Science Foundation. (Source: China Science News, Liao Yang, Wang Min)

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