Characteristics, energetics, and origins of agulhas current meanders and their limited influence on ring shedding

Shane Elipot, Lisa M. Beal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


The Agulhas Current intermittently undergoes dramatic offshore excursions from its mean path because of the downstream passage of mesoscale solitary meanders or Natal pulses. New observations and analyses are presented of the variability of the current and its meanders using mooring observations from the Agulhas Current Time-Series Experiment (ACT) near 34°S. Using a new rotary EOF method, mesoscale meanders and smaller-scale meanders are differentiated and each captured in a single mode of variance. During mesoscale meanders, an onshore cyclonic circulation and an offshore anticyclonic circulation act together to displace the jet offshore, leading to sudden and strong positive conversion of kinetic energy from the mean flow to the meander via nonlinear interactions. Smaller meanders are principally represented by a single cyclonic circulation spanning the entire jet that acts to displace the jet without extracting kinetic energy from the mean flow. Synthesizing in situ observations with altimeter data leads to an account of the number of mesoscale meanders at 34°S: 1.6 yr-1 on average, in agreement with a recent analysis by Rouault and Penven (2011) and significantly less than previously understood. The links between meanders and the arrival of Mozambique Channel eddies or Madagascar dipoles at the western boundary upstreamare found to be robust in the 20-yr altimeter record. Yet, only a small fraction of anomalies arriving at the western boundary result in meanders, and of those, two-thirds can be related to ring shedding. Most Agulhas rings are shed independently of meanders.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2294-2314
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Physical Oceanography
Issue number9
StatePublished - 2015


  • Altimetry
  • Atm/Ocean Structure/Phenomena
  • Boundary currents
  • Buoy observations
  • Eddies
  • Empirical orthogonal functions
  • Geographic location/entity
  • Indian Ocean
  • Mathematical and statistical techniques
  • Observational techniques and algorithms

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oceanography


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