Observations of the southern East Madagascar Current and undercurrent and countercurrent system



[1] In April 2001 four hydrographic sections perpendicular to the southern East Madagascar Current were surveyed as part of the Agulhas Current Sources Experiment. Observations with a vessel mounted and a lowered ADCP produced information on the current field while temperature, salinity, oxygen and nutrient data obtained with a CTD-Rosette system, gave information on the water mass structure of the currents southeast of Madagascar. The peak velocity in the pole-ward East Madagascar Current through these four sections had a typical magnitude of ∼110 cm/s, while the width of this current was of the order of 120 km. The mean pole-ward volume transport rate of this current during the survey above the 5°C isotherm was estimated to be 37 ± 10 Sv. On all four sections an undercurrent was observed at intermediate depths below the East Madagascar Current. Its equator-ward transport rate amounted to 2.8 ± 1.4 Sv. Offshore of the East Madagascar Current the shallow South Indian Ocean Countercurrent was observed. This eastward frontal jet coincided with the barotropic and thermohaline front that separates the saline Subtropical Surface Water from the fresher Tropical Surface Water in the East Madagascar Current. The near-surface geostrophic flow of the East Madagascar Current, derived from satellite altimetry data from 1992 to 2005, suggests a strong variability of this transport due to eddy variability and interannual changes. The long-term pole-ward mean transport of the East Madagascar Current, roughly estimated from those altimetry data amounts to 32 Sv. The upper-ocean water mass of the East Madagascar Current was very saline in 2001, compared to WOCE surveys from 1995. Comparison of our undercurrent data with those of the WOCE surveys in 1995 confirms that the undercurrent is a recurrent feature. Its water mass properties are relatively saline, due to the presence of water originating from the Red Sea outflow at intermediate levels. The saline water was advected from the Mozambique Channel to the eastern slope of Madagascar.