On the seasonal variability and eddies in the North Brazil Current: insights from model intercomparison experiments

dolbers [ at ] awi-bremerhaven.de


The time dependent circulation of the North Brazil Current is studied with three numerical ocean circulation models, which differ by the vertical coordinate used to formulate theprimitive equations. The models are driven with the same surface boundary conditions and their horizontal grid-resolution (isotropic, 1/3° at the equator) is in principle fine enough topermit the generation of mesoscale eddies. Our analysis of the mean seasonal currents concludes that the volume transport of the North Brazil Current (NBC) at the equator isprincipally determined by the strength of the meridional overturning, and suggests that the return path of the global thermohaline circulation is concentrated in the NBC. Models whichsimulate a realistic overturning at 24°N of the order of 16-18 Sv also simulate a realistic NBC transport of nearly 35 Sv comparable to estimates deduced from the most recentobservations. In all models, the major part of this inflow of warm waters from the South Atlantic recirculates in the zonal equatorial current system, but the models also agree on theexistence of a permanent coastal mean flow to the north-west, from the equator into the Carribean Sea, in the form of a continuous current or a succession of eddies. Importantdifferences are found between models in their representation of the eddy field. The reasons invoked are the use of different subgrid-scale parameterisations, and differences instability of the NBC retroflection loop because of differences in the representation of the effect of bottom friction according to the vertical coordinate that is used. Finally, even ifdifferences noticed between models in the details of the seasonal mean circulation and water mass properties could be explained by differences in the eddy field, nonetheless themajor characteristics (mean seasonal currents, volume and heat transports) appears to be at first order driven by the strength of the thermohaline circulation.

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Barnier, B. , Reynaud, T. , Beckmann, A. , Böning, C. , Molines, J. M. , Barnard, S. and Jia, Y. (2001): On the seasonal variability and eddies in the North Brazil Current: insights from model intercomparison experiments , Progress in Oceanography, 48 , pp. 195-230 .

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