Agulhas ring dynamics from TOPEX/POSEIDON satellite altimeter data

Gustavo J. Goni, Silvia L. Garzoli, Andreas J. Roubicek, Donald B. Olson, Otis B. Brown

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

96 Scopus citations


The transfer of warm water from the Indian Ocean into the South Atlantic subtropical gyre takes place in the form of rings and filaments formed when the Agulhas Current retroflects south of Africa between 15 and 25E. A survey of the rings formed from September 1992 until December 1995 in the Retroflection region was carried out using TOPEX/POSEIDON altimeter data. A two-layer model was used to estimate the upper layer thickness from the altimeter-derived sea-surface height anomaly data. An objective analysis scheme was used to construct a map of upper layer thickness every ten days. Seventeen rings and their trajectories were identified using these maps. The shedding of rings from the Agulhas Current was neither continuous nor periodic, and for long periods there is no formation of rings. Several rings remained in the region for more than a year and, at any given time, 2 to 6 rings coexisted in the region east of the Walvis Ridge. The results showed that the number of rings translating simultaneously in this region is larger during the first half of each year. The upper layer transport of the Agulhas Current in the Retroflection region was computed and a close association between high variations in transport and ring shedding was found. Rings translated WNW at translation speeds ranging from 5 to 16 km day-1 following formation. The values of available potential energy computed for the rings place them among the most energetic rings observed in the world oceans, with values of up to 70 × 1015 J. Transport computations indicate that each ring contributes in the average approximately 1 Sv of Agulhas Current waters to the Benguela Current.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)861-883
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of Marine Research
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 1997

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oceanography


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