A North Atlantic deep-water eddy in the Agulhas Current system

Tânia G.D. Casal, Lisa M. Beal, Rick Lumpkin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


One hundred and twelve stations of CTDO2 and LADCP were collected in the Agulhas Current system as part of the Agulhas Undercurrent experiment (AUCE) in March 2003. Along an offshore section, at approximately 35.6°S and 27.3°E to the northwest of the tip of the Agulhas Plateau, an unusual feature was revealed between 2200 and 3500 m depth, imbedded in the northward moving NADW layer. An anomalously high salinity of 34.83, 0.03 saltier than the surrounding water, was observed. Maximums in the potential temperature and oxygen were also found, with isotherms dropping by about 250 m over 50 km and a doming of the oxygen layers. From the convex lens structure of the neutral surfaces, we conclude that we sampled an anticyclonic eddy of NADW. Since the LADCP data reveal deep velocities up to 20 cm s-1, yet no anticyclonic circulation, whereas the geostrophic velocity referenced to the bottom shows a weak anticyclonic circulation, we inferred that we sampled the outer edge of the eddy and not its core. From an analysis of the water properties within the eddy and a comparison with known properties in the SE Atlantic Ocean and SW Indian Ocean, we conclude that the eddy was formed in the Agulhas Retroflection region. We speculate that the eddy was the result of an instability in the NADW slope current, which flows from the SE Atlantic around the Agulhas Bank. A deeply penetrating Agulhas Ring spun up the deep waters, pinching off an eddy, which later detached from the slope current and was carried southward. Once offshore, it coupled with the surface Agulhas Return Current, whose meandering path advected the eddy northeastward and ejected it over the Agulhas Plateau.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1718-1728
Number of pages11
JournalDeep-Sea Research Part I: Oceanographic Research Papers
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2006


  • Agulhas Current
  • Boundary currents
  • Circulation
  • Deep water
  • Indian Ocean
  • Oceanic eddies

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oceanography
  • Aquatic Science


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