Revista de Biología Tropical ISSN Impreso: 0034-7744 ISSN electrónico: 2215-2075

Variations in the geostrophic circulation pattern and thermohaline structure in the Southeast Central American Pacific.


Geostrophic circulation
North Equatorial Countercurrent
Cocos Island
water masses.
Circulación geostrófica
Contracorriente Ecuatorial Norte
Isla el Coco
masas de agua.

How to Cite

Brenes, C., Ballestero, D., Benavides, R., Salazar, J. P., & Murillo, G. (2016). Variations in the geostrophic circulation pattern and thermohaline structure in the Southeast Central American Pacific. Revista De Biología Tropical, 64(S1), 121–134.


This study was conducted in the southeast region of the Central American Pacific, an area of great oceanographic importance due to the presence of various upwelling phenomena and the direct influence of the ENSO on its waters. Its main objective was to contribute to the knowledge of the main factors that modulate the regional dynamics. We describe the geostrophic circulation and thermohaline features along two transects obtained in October 2010 and March 2011, one from Costa Rica at (84°54’ W - 9°37’ N) to the SW of Cocos Island at (88°19’ W - 3°06’ N), and the second oriented zonally across the island from (88°14’ W - 5°33’ N) to (84°33’ W - 5°33’ N). Surface temperatures ranged from 27°C to 29°C and a near isothermal layer, with an average thickness of 40 m, was apparent above the thermocline centered at 60 m. Surface salinities were between 32 and 32.8, typical values of the Tropical Surface Water. In both years, Cocos Island was located in a region of low surface salinities (~32). The salty core of the Subtropical Subsurface Water (~35) was located at an average depth of 150m. In October the circulation between Cocos Island and the continent was dominated by the presence of the North Equatorial Countercurrent (NECC), with speeds above 40 cm s-1 in the upper 50 m of the water column. No flow to the northwest near the coast that could be associated with the Costa Rica Coastal Current (CRCC) in October was observed. The Cocos Island was located in the center of a 150 m deep, 100 km diameter anticyclonic eddy, with surface speeds of 10 cm s-1and 20 cm s-1. In March the study area was again dominated by an anticyclonic cell, with eastward flow between 50 cm s-1 and 60 cm s-1 located between 200 km north and 100 km south of the island. The southern end of this cell, with velocities between 10 cm s-1 and 50 cm s-1 to the northwest, was located 200 km south of Cocos Island. A flow to the NW near the edge of the continental shelf, consistent with the CRCC, was observed in May. Our study contributes to document the oceanography of the eastern end of the Equatorial Current System near the coast of Central America, where regional forcing modifies the zonal flow which prevails west of the study area.


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