South Atlantic Ocean circulation: Simulation experiments with a quasi-geostrophic model and assimilation of TOPEX/POSEIDON and ERS 1 altimeter data


  • P. Florenchie,

  • J. Verron


Simulation experiments of South Atlantic Ocean circulations are conducted with a 1/6°, four-layered, quasi-geostrophic model. By means of a simple nudging data assimilation procedure along satellite tracks, TOPEX/POSEIDON and ERS 1 altimeter measurements are introduced into the model to control the simulation of the basin-scale circulation for the period from October 1992 to September 1994. The model circulation appears to be strongly influenced by the introduction of altimeter data, offering a consistent picture of South Atlantic Ocean circulations. Comparisons with observations show that the assimilating model successfully simulates the kinematic behavior of a large number of surface circulation components. The assimilation procedure enables us to produce schematic diagrams of South Atlantic circulation in which patterns ranging from basin-scale currents to mesoscale eddies are portrayed in a realistic way, with respect to their complexity. The major features of the South Atlantic circulation are described and analyzed, with special emphasis on the Brazil-Malvinas Confluence region, the Subtropical Gyre with the formation of frontal structures, and the Agulhas Retroflection. The Agulhas eddy-shedding process has been studied extensively. Fourteen eddies appear to be shed during the 2-year experiment. Because of their strong surface topographic signature, Agulhas eddies have been tracked continuously during the assimilation experiment as they cross the South Atlantic basin westward. Other effects of the assimilation procedure are shown, such as the intensification of the Subtropical Gyre, the appearance of a strong seasonal cycle in the Brazil Current transport, and the increase of the mean Brazil Current transport. This last result, combined with the westward oriention of the Agulhas eddies' trajectories, leads to a southward transport of mean eddy kinetic energy across 30°S.