On the circulation in the upper layer of the western equatorial Atlantic


  • B. Bourlès,

  • Y. Gouriou,

  • R. Chuchla


Hydrographic observations of pressure, temperature, salinity, dissolved oxygen, and shipboard acoustic Doppler current profiler measurements are used to study the upper layer circulation in the western equatorial Atlantic Ocean, limited to the region bounded by the 10°S and 14°N latitudes between the longitudes 30°W and 52°W. Data were obtained during four World Ocean Circulation Experiment cruises, carried out in January-March 1993, January-March 1994, September-October 1995, and April-May 1996. In the upper layer, the continuity of the northwestward flowing North Brazil Current along the American continent toward the Caribbean Sea is confirmed in boreal spring. Furthermore, part of the North Brazil Current also continues northwestward in the subthermocline layer during short periods in boreal spring, contrary to previous estimates. The North Equatorial Countercurrent (NECC) is present in boreal spring west of 40°W, fed with water of Northern Hemisphere origin only. The southeastward flowing current observed at 3°N–44°W is fed by the North Brazil Current retroflection and by a cyclonic recirculation of the southern edge of the North Equatorial Current. The upper layer of this current, at 3°N–44°W, feeds the Equatorial Undercurrent (EUC) and the NECC, when its subthermocline layer feeds the EUC and the North Equatorial Undercurrent. Near-surface eastward flow is present above the EUC during all cruises, yielding to a strong increase of the eastward warm water transport.