Capturing the transport variability of a western boundary jet: Results from the Agulhas Current time-series experiment (ACT)

Lisa M. Beal, Shane Elipot, Adam Houk, Greta M. Leber

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55 Scopus citations


The volume transport of the Agulhas Current was measured over a 3-yr period by an array of seven current meter moorings and four current- and pressure-recording inverted echo sounders (CPIES) deployed at 34°S. CPIES extended the array farther offshore in order to capture, for the first time, the full Agulhas Current during meander events. Transports derived from CPIES are well correlated with overlapping current meter transports (0.89). The Eulerian mean current is 219 km wide and 3000 m deep, with peak surface speeds of 1.8 m s-1 and a weak northward undercurrent on the continental slope below 1200 m. A new algorithm to capture the western boundary jet transport at each time step T is defined as the poleward transport out to the first maximum of the vertically integrated velocity beyond the half-width of the mean jet. The mean transport of the Agulhas Current jet, so defined, is -84 Sverdrups (Sv; 1 Sv = 106 m3 s-1) with a standard error of 2 Sv. Sampling and instrumental errors are explicitly estimated and amount to an additional 9 Sv. A more traditional estimate, based on net transport integrated to a fixed distance offshore Tbox, gives a mean transport of -77 ± 5 Sv. This transport is 10 Sv greater than an equivalent transport at 32°S, corresponding to a latitudinal increase equal to that predicted by Sverdrup dynamics. The time series of T and Tbox show important differences during solitary meander events and at longer time scales. In terms of an annual cycle, the Agulhas Current appears strongest during austral summer, a similar phase to the Gulf Stream and Kuroshio.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1302-1324
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of Physical Oceanography
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2015


  • Boundary currents
  • Circulation/Dynamics
  • In situ oceanic observations
  • Observational techniques and algorithms
  • Transport

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oceanography


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