South Atlantic circulation in a world ocean model
Abstract. The circulation in the South Atlantic Ocean has been simulated within a global ocean general circulation model. Preliminary analysis of the modelled ocean circulation in the region indicates a rather close agreement of the simulated upper ocean flows with conventional notions of the large-scale geostrophic currents in the region. The modelled South Atlantic Ocean witnesses the return flow and export of North Atlantic Deep Water (NADW) at its northern boundary, the inflow of a rather barotropic Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC) through the Drake Passage, and the inflow of warm saline Agulhas water around the Cape of Good Hope. The Agulhas leakage amounts to 8.7 Sv, within recent estimates of the mass transport shed westward at the Agulhas retroflection. Topographic steering of the ACC dominates the structure of flow in the circumpolar ocean. The Benguela Current is seen to be fed by a mixture of saline Indian Ocean water (originating from the Agulhas Current) and fresher Subantarctic surface water (originating in the ACC). The Benguela Current is seen to modify its flow and fate with depth; near the surface it flows north-westwards bifurcating most of its transport northward into the North Atlantic Ocean (for ultimate replacement of North Atlantic surface waters lost to the NADW conveyor). Deeper in the water column, more of the Benguela Current is destined to return with the Brazil Current, though northward flows are still generated where the Benguela Current extension encounters the coast of South America. At intermediate levels, these northward currents trace the flow of Antarctic Intermediate Water (AAIW) equatorward, though even more AAIW is seen to recirculate poleward in the subtropical gyre. In spite of the model's rather coarse resolution, some subtle features of the Brazil-Malvinas Confluence are simulated rather well, including the latitude at which the two currents meet. Conceptual diagrams of the recirculation and interocean exchange of thermocline, intermediate and deep waters are constructed from an analysis of flows bound between isothermal and isobaric surfaces. This analysis shows how the return path of NADW is partitioned between a cold water route through the Drake Passage (6.5 Sv), a warm water route involving the Agulhas Current sheeding thermocline water westward (2.5 Sv), and a recirculation of intermediate water originating in the Indian Ocean (1.6 Sv).