Anthropogenic impact on Agulhas leakage


Arne Biastoch, GEOMAR Helmholtz-Zentrum für Ozeanforschung Kiel, Düsternbrooker Weg 20, 24105 Kiel, Germany. (


[1] Recent work suggests that changes of the Southern Hemisphere (SH) winds led to an increase in Agulhas leakage and a corresponding salinification of the Atlantic. Climate model projections for the 21st century predict a progressive southward migration and intensification of the SH westerlies. The potential effects on the ocean circulation of such an anthropogenic trend in wind stress are studied here with a high-resolution ocean model forced by a step-function change in SH wind stress that involves a 7% increase in westerlies strength and a 2° shift in the zero wind stress curl. The model simulation suggests a rapid dynamic adjustment of Agulhas leakage by 4.5 Sv, about a third of its original value, after a few years. The change in leakage is reflected in a concomitant change in the transport of the South Atlantic subtropical gyre, but leads only to a small increase in the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) of O(1 Sv) after three decades. A main effect of the increasing inflow of Indian Ocean waters with potential long-term ramifications for the AMOC is the salinification and densification of upper-thermocline waters in the South Atlantic, which extends into the North Atlantic within the first three decades.