Float experiment studies interocean exchanges at the tip of Africa


  • Olaf Boebel,

    1. Department of Oceanography, University of Cape Town, 7700 Rondebosch, South Africa
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  • Chris Duncombe Rae,

  • Silvia Garzoli,

  • Johann Lutjeharms,

  • Phil Richardson,

  • Tom Rossby,

  • Claudia Schmid,

  • Walter Zenk


A joint research effort is currently focused on the oceanic region south of Africa—the gateway for the exchange of mass, heat, and salt between the Indian and Atlantic Oceans (Figure lb). The name of this collaboration, KAPEX, stands for Cape of Good Hope Experiments, Kap der guten Hoffnung Experimente, or Kaap die Goeie Hoop Eksperimente in the three languages of the participating scientists. This is the first time that scientists are using acoustically tracked floats extensively in ocean regions surrounding southern Africa to measure ocean flow patterns. At the tip of Africa, the Agulhas Current from the Indian Ocean interacts with the South Atlantic Current, contributing to the northwestward flowing Benguela Current, which transports water, heat, and salt to the subtropical and subequatorial South Atlantic (Figure la).

This transport increases the heat and salinity of the North Atlantic, preconditioning it for the formation of the global thermohaline circulation cell, a driving force of the world climate [Gordon etal., 1992]. Our objective in the KAPEX is to trace the flow of intermediate water around southern Africa by the Agulhas, Benguela, and South Atlantic Current systems and to answer key questions about the inter-oceanic intermediate circulation.