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Observations of the East Madagascar Current system: Dynamics and volume transports

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The South Equatorial Current (SEC) in the Indian Ocean bifurcates when it reaches Madagascar leading, respectively, to the North East Madagascar Current (NEMC), which contours the island flowing northwestward, and to the South East Madagascar Current (SEMC), which flows southwestward. Both branches eventually contribute to the greater Agulhas Current system and thus play a part in the global ocean circulation. In addition, these currents have important effects on the local conditions for marine life. In this study, the NEMC and the SEMC are investigated based on a comprehensive, multidisciplinary survey of the east coast of Madagascar in 2008. Results from conductivity-temperaturedepth stations, underway measurements with thermosalinograph and fluorometer, and ship-mounted acoustic Doppler current profiler are discussed along with concomitant remotely sensed data. Maximum core velocities of >150 cm s–1 were observed in both the NEMC and the SEMC. The SEMC appeared as a nearshore southward jet, which extended at its widest nearly 200 km offshore. Near the southern tip of Madagascar, the SEMC was flanked by reverse velocities: a northeastward current about 30 km wide along the coast and a northeastward offshore current greater than 140 km wide suggesting the presence of the South Indian Ocean Countercurrent. The NEMC had the structure of a narrow nearshore jet, with weak currents beyond 100 km offshore. Volume transport for the upper 1,100 m was estimated to be 22 Sverdrup (Sv) for the SEMC and 48 Sv for the NEMC. The high NEMC transport compared with earlier estimates might be because of anomalously high influx of the SEC during the measurement period. Off the south coast, an undercurrent below 900 m carried an equatorward transport of 3.1 Sv. No undercurrent was observed in the north, but a geostrophic velocity minimum and a similar vertical velocity shear between surface and subsurface currents were found at the level where such a countercurrent has been previously observed from direct measurements.
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Keywords: EAST MADAGASCAR; IN SITU OBSERVATIONS; INDIAN OCEAN; REMOTE SENSING; VOLUME TRANSPORT; WESTERN BOUNDARY CURRENT

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 July 2017

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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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