Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans

Intrathermocline eddies in the Southern Indian Ocean



[1] In 2001, two relatively saline intrathermocline eddies (ITEs) were observed southeast of Madagascar at 200 m depth. They are characterized by a subsurface salinity maximum of over 35.8 at potential temperatures between 18° and 22°C. The oxygen concentrations within the high salinity cores are slightly elevated compared with those of the surrounding water. Their horizontal extent is about 180 km, several times the Rossby deformation radius, while their thickness is about 150 m. The observed circulation around the ITEs is anticyclonic and maximum velocities of 20 to 30 cm/s are observed at 200 m depth. In these cores the potential density anomaly (25.0 < γ < 25.9 kg/m3) has a relatively low vertical gradient and therefore a low planetary potential vorticity. The hydrographic properties of these ITEs are distinctly different from those of the surrounding thermocline water, and especially from the much fresher water mass in the East Madagascar Current. Strong evidence has been found that the distant formation area of the water mass in the ITEs is the subtropical Southern Indian Ocean east of 90°E and south of 25°S, where Subtropical Underwater (STUW) is formed with similar characteristics. Similar high-salinity cores as the ITEs are also found in the thermocline around 200 m depth along an almost zonal section between Madagascar and 100°E. Differences between the hydrographic properties of these cores and the ITEs near Madagascar may partly be explained by interannual variations in the temperature and salinity of the surface mixed layer water in the possible formation area.