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NSF provides $3.4 million to study climatically important Agulhas Current
Date:6/29/2009

VIRGINIA KEY, Fla. -- The U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) announced that it is funding a study with the goal of building a multi-decadal time series of Agulhas Current volume transport, which will contribute to the Global Ocean Observing System. Led by Principal Investigator, Lisa Beal, Ph.D. of the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, the international team will include scientists from the National Oceanography Centre (Southampton, United Kingdom) and the University of Cape Town (Cape Town, South Africa).

The Agulhas Current is the "Gulf Stream" of the southern Indian Ocean, carrying warm and salty tropical waters southward along the east coast of Africa as a narrow, fast jet. At the tip of Africa the Agulhas retroflects, looping around to eventually flow eastward toward Australia. This retroflection is unstable and regularly sheds large Agulhas Rings, which carry Indian Ocean waters into the South Atlantic.

"We anticipate this study will shed light on the seasonal to decadal variability of the Agulhas," said Beal. "Locally, the warm waters of the Agulhas effect African rainfall rates, and globally, there is paleo-oceanographic evidence suggesting that changes in the amount of Agulhas water reaching the Atlantic may have triggered the end of the last ice age." In addition, Beal believes there may be other, so far unstudied climatic impacts such as heat transport into the Southern Ocean via the unstable retroflection.

The Agulhas Current Time-series (ACT) project will be conducted in two phases. The first requires the deployment of an array of instruments across the Agulhas Current and along an altimeter ground track, to obtain a three-year series of transport data. Using the in situ measurements gathered, the team will embark on the second phase, to correlate the along-track satellite altimeter data with measured transports to produce a proxy for Agulhas Current transport, which can
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Contact: Barbra Gonzalez
barbgo@rsmas.miami.edu
305-421-4704
University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science
Source:Eurekalert  

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