Mesoscale perturbations control inter-ocean exchange south of Africa

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Abstract

[1] The quantification of inter-ocean leakage from the South Indian to the South Atlantic Ocean is an important measure for the role of the Agulhas system in the global thermohaline circulation. To explore the specific role of mesoscale variability (such as Agulhas rings and Mozambique eddies) in this process a high-resolution model (based on NEMO-ORCA) for the Agulhas region has been set up. It is nested into a global coarse-resolution model. The high-resolution nest captures all salient features of the greater Agulhas region, including the upstream perturbations of the Agulhas Current and Natal Pulses along the African coast. A comparison of the inter-ocean exchange in the high-resolution nest with its coarse resolution counterpart reveals that the latter significantly over-estimates the amount of water flowing into the Atlantic Ocean, demonstrating the need to explicitly simulate the mesoscale features. A sensitivity experiment that excludes the upstream perturbations revealed no difference in the amount of inter-ocean exchange. However, the realistic representation of Agulhas rings and their drift path into the South Atlantic depends on the simulation of those upstream perturbations.

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