Investigating the relationship between volume transport and sea surface height in a numerical ocean model

Estee Ann Vermeulen, Björn Backeberg, Juliet Hermes, Shane Elipot

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


The Agulhas Current Time-series Experiment mooring array (ACT) measured transport of the Agulhas Current at 34° S for a period of 3 years. Using along-track satellite altimetry data directly above the array, a proxy of Agulhas Current transport was developed based on the relationship between cross-current sea surface height (SSH) gradients and the measured transports. In this study, the robustness of the proxy is tested within a numerical modelling framework using a 34-year-long regional hindcast simulation from the Hybrid Coordinate Ocean Model (HYCOM). The model specifically tested the sensitivity of the transport proxy to (1) changes in the vertical structure of the current and to (2) different sampling periods used to calculate the proxy. Two reference proxies were created using HYCOM data from 2010 to 2013 by extracting model data at the mooring positions and along the satellite altimeter track for the box (net) transport and the jet (southwestward) transport. Sensitivity tests were performed where the proxy was recalculated from HYCOM for (1) a period where the modelled vertical stratification was different compared to the reference proxy and (2) different lengths of time periods: 1, 3, 6, 12, 18, and 34 years. Compared to the simulated (native) transports, it was found that the HYCOM proxy was more capable of estimating the box transport of the Agulhas Current compared to the jet transport. This was because the model is unable to resolve the dynamics associated with meander events, for which the jet transport algorithm was developed. The HYCOM configuration in this study contained exaggerated levels of offshore variability in the form of frequently impinging baroclinic anticyclonic eddies. These eddies consequently broke down the linear relationship between SSH slope and vertically integrated transport. Lastly, results showed that calculating the proxy over shorter or longer time periods in the model did not significantly impact the skill of the Agulhas transport proxy. Modelling studies of this kind provide useful information towards advancing our understanding of the sensitivities and limitations of transport proxies that are needed to improve long-term ocean monitoring approaches.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)513-526
Number of pages14
JournalOcean Science
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 14 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oceanography
  • Palaeontology


Dive into the research topics of 'Investigating the relationship between volume transport and sea surface height in a numerical ocean model'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this