Sea surface structure of North Brazil Current rings derived from shipboard and moored acoustic Doppler current profiler observations

G. P. Castelão, W. E. Johns

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


In the western tropical Atlantic, the North Brazil Current retroflection periodically sheds large anticyclonic rings, which then propagate northwestward. Between 1998 and 2000, the North Brazil Current Rings Experiment sampled a large number of these rings by shipboard and moored acoustic Doppler current profiler. Ten of the sampled rings are analyzed in this study, focusing on their sea surface dynamic properties. The rings exhibit a radial structure consisting of two regimes, an "inner" core region in near solid body rotation and an "outer" ring regime with an approximately exponentially decaying structure. The observations show a sharp change in vorticity at the regime transition and the presence of a strong opposite vorticity shield bounding the inner solid body core. We show that Gaussian models, commonly used to represent the surface expression of these and other rings, are adequate for determining the sea surface height anomaly but tend to poorly estimate other properties such as the maximum swirl velocity. Therefore, we propose a new two-part model as a better approximation of the rings' radial structure. According to the cyclogeostrophic balance approximation, the sea surface height distribution across the inner ring has a parabolic shape, while the outer ring has an exponential structure similar to the velocity field. Interestingly, many of the observed rings have an intensity very close to the theoretical limit for anticyclones at these latitudes, which is believed to be due to inertial instability.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberC01010
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Oceans
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Forestry
  • Oceanography
  • Aquatic Science
  • Ecology
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Soil Science
  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Earth-Surface Processes
  • Atmospheric Science
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Palaeontology

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