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Modelling wind-driven inter-ocean exchange in the greater Agulhas with the regional ocean modelling system

By Benjamin Loveday


Includes bibliographical references.Two Regional Ocean Modelling System configurations, AGIO and ARC112, are developed to investigate (1) the structure of the Agulhas leakage, (2) the dynamical link between the leakage and the Agulhas Current, and (3) the sensitivity of this link to changes in the regional wind field. Both configurations span the Indian Ocean and South East Atlantic Ocean (29° W - 115° E, 48.25° S - 7.5° N) at 1/4° resolution. ARC112 includes a two-way, AGRIF nested, 1/12° child domain, encapsulating the Agulhas retroflection (0° E - 40° E, 45.5° S - 29.5° S). Model evaluation shows that the basin-scale circulation patterns of the South Indian Ocean are appropriately captured. Western boundary transports match those derived from in situ hydrography, though source region fluxes exceed those observed. Both configurations exhibit inertially governed retroflections and produce Agulhas rings with eddy kinetic energy patterns consistent with those derived from altimetry. Improved topography in ARC112 yields a retroflection position and leakage value closer to observations. Dominant regional water masses are captured, but discrepancies in their distributions remain, especially in highly turbulent areas. The interannual variability of upper ocean heat content is well captured, and Indian Ocean dipole modes are appropriately expressed. Leakage is shown to be confined to the top 1500 m. Flux estimates, derived using complementary Eulerian passive tracer and Lagrangian virtual float techniques, converge where retroflection position is more accurate. Eddy flux, isolated using an Okubo-Weiss parameterisation, contributes only 1/3 to the total flux at the GoodHope line, with a 2:1 anticyclone to cyclone ratio. The remaining intra-ring flux occurs due to mixing between rings in the Cape Basin thermocline, which contains up to 50% Indian Ocean waters. Using a hybrid-criteria eddy-tracking scheme, ARC112i is shown to represent all three recently identified eddy paths, producing an accurate number of rings and cyclones with trajectories and radii that mirror observations, despite higher simulated speeds. A multi-decadal strengthening of the eddy component of Agulhas leakage is ascribed to increases in anti-cyclone speed and cyclone size. Linear changes in trade wind intensity, imposed through a series of idealised wind stress anomalies, concomitantly modulate Agulhas Current transport. The leakage flux response to changing western boundary current inertia is minimal, decreasing with higher resolution. Large changes in eddy kinetic energy are associated with small leakage anomalies, suggesting that the former is a poor leakage proxy. Initially, the leakage responds linearly to increasing westerly wind intensity, but increased mixing between the Agulhas Return Current and Antarctic Circumpolar Current reduces inter-basin flux as the latter adjusts. Consequently, it is suggested that Agulhas Current and leakage magnitude may, to a degree, vary independently, and that multi-decadal trends in the region may be a function of the wind forcing used. Equatorward shifts in the zero line of wind-stress curl drive a small leakage increase, counter to proposed palaeoceanographic mechanism where leakage is implied to reduce under these conditions

Publisher: Department of Oceanography
Year: 2014
OAI identifier: oai:localhost:11427/8805
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