We perform eddy-resolving and high-vertical-resolution numerical simulations of the circulation in an idealized equatorial Atlantic Ocean in order to explore the formation of the deep equatorial circulation (DEC) in this basin. Unlike in previous studies, the deep equatorial intraseasonal variability (DEIV) that is believed to be the source of the DEC is generated internally by instabilities of the upper ocean currents.
Two main simulations are discussed: Solution 1, configured with a rectangular basin and with wind forcing that is zonally and temporally uniform; and Solution 2, with realistic coastlines and with an annual cycle of wind forcing varying zonally. Somewhat surprisingly, Solution 1 produces the more realistic DEC: The large-vertical-scale currents (Equatorial Intermediate Currents or EICs) are found over a large zonal portion of the basin, and the small-vertical-scale equatorial currents (Equatorial Deep Jets or EDJs) form low-frequency, quasi-resonant, baroclinic equatorial basin modes with phase propagating mostly downward, consistent with observations. We demonstrate that both types of currents arise from the rectification of DEIV, consistent with previous theories. We also find that the EDJs contribute to maintaining the EICs, suggesting that the nonlinear energy transfer is more complex than previously thought. In Solution 2, the DEC is unrealistically weak and less spatially coherent than in the first simulation probably because of its weaker DEIV. Using intermediate solutions, we find that the main reason for this weaker DEIV is the use of realistic coastlines in Solution 2. It remains to be determined, what needs to be modified or included to obtain a realistic DEC in the more realistic configuration.