Temporal variations in the separation of Brazil and Malvinas Currents

Donald B. Olson, Guillermo P. Podestá, Robert H. Evans, Otis B. Brown

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274 Scopus citations


The separation of the Brazil and Malvinas (Falkland) Currents from the western boundary is explored with the use of satellite and drifter data. The location of the separation of these boundary currents from the continental margin over a multiyear period is determined by digitizing the crossing of the surface thermal front indicative of each feature with the 1000 m isobath. Three years (July 1984 to June 1987) of 1 km resolution AVHRR data collected by the Argentina Meteorological Service and 4 years of lower resolution Global Retrieval Tape (GRT) data were used to generate a total time series extending from November 1981 to June 1987; i.e. 5 1 2 years. The mean latitudes of separation from the shelf break are 35.8 ± 1.1° for the Brazil Current and 38.6 ± 0.9° for the Malvinas Current. The along-coast ranges of the separation positions, 930 and 850 km, respectively, are quite large relative to similar statistics for the Gulf Stream or Kuroshio. Observed temporal variability suggests cyclical excursions of the currents along the coast at semi-annual and annual periods, although there is considerable interannual variation in the signal. Drifter trajectories overlaid on satellite images demonstrate events associated with the annual transition in 1984-1985. Shorter time-scale perturbations in the currents' separation latitudes occur in the 30-60 day band, which corresponds to the mesoscale eddy field. The connection of the variation in the separation with various possible forcing mechanisms is briefly discussed, along with the problem of gaining a theoretical understanding of this dynamic situation. Finally, the extensions of the two currents into the South Atlantic interior are described statistically using the high resolution data set.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1971-1990
Number of pages20
JournalDeep Sea Research Part A, Oceanographic Research Papers
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1988

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)


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