Structure and origin of the subtropical South Indian Ocean Countercurrent

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Abstract

[1] The structure of the subtropical South Indian Ocean Countercurrent (SICC) is revealed by altimeter-derived absolute geostrophic surface velocities. It is a narrow, eastward-flowing current between 22° and 26°S confined to planetary wave trains which propagate westward through the Indian Ocean. Multi-year averaging identifies it as a well-defined current between Madagascar and 80°E, continuing with lower intensity between 90° and 100°E. It virtually coincides with the northern limit of Subtropical Underwater subduction. Geostrophic currents from hydrographic sections closely correspond to these surface patterns. Volume transports of the countercurrent down to 800 dbar are of order (107 m3 s−1). Evidence is provided for a narrow branch of the South Equatorial Current (SEC) approaching Madagascar near 18°S and feeding the southern East Madagascar Current (EMC) which appears to continue westward around the southern tip of Madagascar. It then partially retroflects and nourishes the SICC.

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