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Free Content The arrested Agulhas retroflection

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Paleoceanographic proxy data indicate that the Agulhas leakage into the South Atlantic was dramatically reduced during glacial times. In our former papers, we suggested that this was due to a northward shift of the zero wind stress curl that, in turn, forced the retroflection to occur farther north, where the slant of the coastline relative to the north is steep. In the present paper, we propose that strong westerlies (0.4 Pa, implying a wind speed of ∼12 m s–1 at zero degrees centigrade), which were supposedly common during glaciations, can also arrest the leakage. This arrest occurred because the wind stress opposed the momentum flux associated with the retroflection; such an arrest did not require the retroflection to shift in latitude.

We use a simple, nonlinear, “reduced gravity” model to show analytically and numerically that, under the above conditions, the eastward wind stress compensates for the zonal westward flow-force associated with the retroflection, thus avoiding the development and shedding of rings. For a nearly zonal wall, westerly winds, and small upper layer thickness along the wall, the arresting wind stress is found, theoretically, to be, τ x = 0.042α3/2 ρf0 [(2f0Q) 3 /g′]1/4, whereα is twice the retroflection eddy vorticity, ρ is the water density, Q is the Agulhas Current volume flux, and the remaining notation is conventional.

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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 July 2011

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  • The Journal of Marine Research publishes peer-reviewed research articles covering a broad array of topics in physical, biological and chemical oceanography. Articles that deal with processes, as well as those that report significant observations, are welcome. In the area of biology, studies involving coupling between ecological and physical processes are preferred over those that report systematics. Authors benefit from thorough reviews of their manuscripts, where an attempt is made to maximize clarity. The time between submission and publication is kept to a minimum; there is no page charge.
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