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Free Content Circulation at the western boundary of the South and Equatorial Atlantic: Exchanges with the ocean interior

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Data from a hydrographic section carried out in January-March 1994 offshore from the eastern coast of South America from 50S to 10N, are used to quantify the full-depth exchanges of water between the western boundary currents and the ocean interior. In the upper and intermediate layers, the westward transport associated with the southern branch of the South Equatorial Current was 49 Sv at the time of the cruise. The transports of the central and northern branches in the upper 200 m were 17 Sv and 12 Sv, respectively. After subtraction of the parts that recirculate in the subtropical, subequatorial, and equatorial domains, the fraction of the South Equatorial Current that effectively contributes to the warm water export to the North Atlantic is estimated at 18 Sv. The poleward boundary of the current southern branch is at 31S through the whole thickness of the subtropical gyre, but the latitude of the northern boundary varies from 7°30′S at the surface to 27S at 1400 m depth. The estimated latitude of its bifurcation into the Brazil Current and North Brazil Undercurrent also varies downward from about 14S at the surface to 28S at a depth of 600 m.

In the North Atlantic Deep Water, eastward flows exceeding 10 Sv are observed at 3°-4° of latitude in both hemispheres, at 10S, and at 34S-30S. Between 4S and 17S, a net westward flow with an estimated transport of 19 Sv reinforces the southward deep western boundary current. Cyclonic circulations of Antarctic Bottom Water along the western boundaries of the Argentine and Brazil basins have amplitudes of 15 Sv and 13 Sv, respectively, exceeding those of the interbasin exchanges. The net alongshore transport of this water mass between the hydrographic section and the continental slope reverses to a southward direction from 13S to 27S, probably in relation with an eastward shift of the equatorward near-bottom boundary current at these latitudes.

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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 November 2000

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