Articles | Volume 27, issue 5
04 May 2009
 | 04 May 2009

Circulation of the thermocline salinity maximum waters off the Northern Brazil as inferred from in situ measurements and numerical results

A. C. Silva, B. Bourles, and M. Araujo

Abstract. High resolution hydrographic observations of temperature and salinity are used to analyse the subsurface circulation along the coast of North Brazil, off the Amazon mouth, between 2° S and 6° N. Observations are presented from four cruises carried out in different periods of the year (March–May 1995, May–June 1999, July–August 2001 and October–November 1997). Numerical model outputs complement the results of the shipboard measurements, and are used to complete the descriptions of mesoscale circulation. The Salinity Maximum Waters are here analyzed, principally in order to describe the penetration of waters originating in the Southern Hemisphere toward the Northern Hemisphere through the North Brazil Current (NBC)/North Brazil Undercurrent (NBUC). Our results show that, if the Equatorial Undercurrent (EUC) is fed by Northern Atlantic Waters, this contribution may only occur in the ocean interior, east of the western boundary around 100 m depth. Modeling results indicate a southward penetration of the Western Boundary Undercurrent (WBUC) below the thermocline, along the North Brazilian coast into the EUC or the North Equatorial Undercurrent (NEUC) (around 48° W–3° N). The WBUC in the region does not flow more south than 3° N. The northern waters are diverted eastward either by the NBC retroflection or by the northern edge of the associated clockwise rings. The existence of subsurface mesoscale rings associated to the NBC retroflection is evidenced, without any signature in the surface layer, so confirming earlier numerical model outputs. These subsurface anticyclones, linked to the NBC/NBUC retroflection into the North Equatorial Undercurrent and the EUC, contribute to the transport of South Atlantic high salinity water into the Northern Hemisphere.