New observations of the intermediate depth circulation in the tropical Atlantic
The intermediate depth (around 1000 m) circulation in the interior tropical Atlantic has been described as several narrow flow bands. Due to a lack of data, these currents have previously been poorly resolved in space and time. Recent observations, obtained during the mid-1997 Seward Johnson cruise and from PALACE floats which cover the period Summer 1997 to Spring 2000, allow a more detailed description of the intermediate depth circulation in the tropical Atlantic. The PALACE trajectories display several well defined currents between the equator and 4N at 800 to 1100 m. Two regimes separated by the eastern edge of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge seem to exist at these latitudes. Velocities in the eastern regime are lower than in the western regime and at some latitudes, the zonal flow in the two regimes is going in opposite directions. Farther south, between 4S and 2S, westward velocities of the central South Equatorial Current dominate the circulation. The flow north of 4N and south of 4S is governed by up to several month-long periods of eastward or westward flow, with only weak preferences for either direction. The southern region is characterized by the (meandering) transition between the central South Equatorial Current and the South Equatorial Countercurrent. It has been proposed earlier that these two currents do not extend eastward beyond about 10W, and that the intermediate water follows a cyclonic path east of 10W between about 5S and 25S. This could be interpreted as an intermediate expression of the Angola Gyre. Such a circulation is not found in the present data set. It is also noted that no significant cross-equatorial flow is found in the PALACE data.
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Document Type: Research Article
Publication date: March 1, 2001
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