North equatorial current

From Glossary of Meteorology



North Equatorial Current

(Abbreviated NEC.) The broad region of uniform westward flow that forms the southern part of the Northern Hemisphere subtropical gyres driven by the trade winds.

Being directly wind driven, the NEC responds quickly to variations in the wind field and is therefore strongest in winter (February). In the Atlantic Ocean it is found between 8° and 30°N with speeds of 0.1–0.3 m s-1. In the Pacific Ocean it has similar speed but is limited to 8°–20°N. In the Indian Ocean it exists only during December–April when the northeast monsoon produces the same wind forcing as the Northern Hemisphere trade winds. It then runs as a narrow current of 0.3 m s-1 from Malacca Strait to Sri Lanka where it bends southward and accelerates in the region 60°–75°E to 0.5–0.8 m s-1 between 2°S and 5°N and continues along the equator.


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