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Title: Three-dimensional circulation in the NW Africa coastal transition zone
Authors: Benítez-Barrios, V. M.
Pelegrí Llopart,José Luis 
Hernandez-Guerra, A. 
Lwiza, K. M.M.
Gomis, D.
Vélez-Belchí, P.
Hernández-León, S. 
UNESCO Clasification: 2510 Oceanografía
Keywords: Atlantic Subtropical Gyre
Eastern Boundary Current
Canary-Islands Area
Oceanographic Cruise Data
North-Atlantic, et al
Issue Date: 2011
Publisher: 0079-6611
Project: Conafrica: la Conexion Africana en la Corriente de Canarias 
Journal: Progress in Oceanography 
Abstract: High-resolution data collected southeast of the Canary Islands during late winter 2006 are analyzed to describe the hydrography and three-dimensional circulation in the coastal transition zone off NW Africa. The data are optimally interpolated over a regular grid, the geostrophic velocity field is calculated and the Q-vector formulation of the omega equation is used to compute the quasi-geostrophic (QG) mesoscale vertical velocity. The coastal transition zone is divided into upwelling, frontal and offshore regions with distinct physical and dynamic characteristics. The upwelling region is characterized by cold and weakly stratified waters flowing towards the equator, with a poleward undercurrent of approximately 0.05 m s−1 over the continental slope. The frontal region exhibits a southwestward baroclinic jet associated with cross-shore raising isopycnals; the jet transport is close to 1 Sv, with maximum velocities of 0.18 m s−1 at surface decreasing to 0.05 m s−1 at 300 db. Vertical sections across the frontal region show the presence of deep eddies probably generated by the topographic blocking of the islands to the southward current, as well as much shallower eddies that likely have arisen as instabilities of the baroclinic upwelling jet. The QG mesoscale vertical velocity field is patchy, estimated to range from −18 to 12 m day−1, with the largest absolute values corresponding to an anticyclonic eddy located south of Fuerteventura Island. These values are significantly larger than estimates for other vertical velocities: diapycnal vertical velocities associated with mixing in the frontal region (a few meters per day), and wind-induced vertical velocities (non-linear Ekman pumping arising from the interaction between the wind stress and the background vorticity, maximum values of a few meters per day; linear Ekman pumping due to the divergence of Ekman transport, a fraction of a meter per day; or the coastal constraint in the upwelling region, about 0.7 m day−1). However, the patchiness in both the QG mesoscale vertical velocity and the non-linear Ekman pumping velocity cause their integrated vertical transports to be one order of magnitude smaller than either coastal Ekman transport (0.08 Sv), integrated linear Ekman pumping (−0.05 Sv) or diapycnal transfer (about 0.1–0.2 Sv). The pattern of the near-surface fluorescence field is a good indicator of these different contributions, with large homogeneous values in the coastal upwelling region and a patchy structure associated with the offshore mesoscale structures.
ISSN: 0079-6611
DOI: 10.1016/j.pocean.2011.07.022
Source: Progress In Oceanography [ISSN 0079-6611], v. 91 (4), p. 516-533
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