Abstract: A high-resolution ocean model is used to characterize the local and remote driving mechanisms of the variability of the Patagonian shelf circulation. Local forcing includes the effects of tides, buoyancy fluxes and wind, while remote forcing represents the impact of the adjacent deep-ocean currents. There is an abrupt change of the dynamical characteristics of the shelf circulation at 40°S. South of 40°S, the seasonal variations of the shelf circulation are out of phase with the local wind stress and are driven by deep ocean inflows originated in the Drake Passage. The inter-annual variability of the shelf circulation is principally driven by the wind and shows a significant correlation with the time variations of the Southern Annular Mode index. The variability of the circulation and upwelling at the shelfbreak region are modulated by the variability of the Malvinas Current transport at low frequency (periods higher than two years), and by the local wind stress at higher frequencies. North of 40°S, the local wind forcing drives the seasonal variations of the shelf transport. The inter-annual variability of the flow is driven by the combined action of the Rio de la Plata discharge (significantly correlated with the El Niño Southern Oscillation), local wind stress and the Brazil-Malvinas Confluence in the outer shelf. In agreement with previous studies, we show that while the position of the confluence marks the location of the largest offshelf transports, it does not determine their magnitude. The offshelf transport variability is controlled by the local wind at high frequency (periods less than a year) and by the equatorward inflow of southern waters at longer periods. Our simulation indicates that the variability of the Subtropical Shelf Front is modulated by the local wind stress forcing, position of the Brazil/Malvinas Confluence and the equatorward inflow of Subantarctic waters.
Abstract: It has been suggested that the Subtropical Shelf Front (STSF) could be a preferential site for the detrainment of Subantarctic Shelf Waters (SASW) and related planktonic shelf species onto the open SW Atlantic Ocean. The offshore detrainment of SASW and planktonic shelf species might be an exportation mechanism, affecting the population abundances of fishing resources in Argentina, Uruguay and Southern Brazil. In this study, we characterize for the first time the 3-D structure of the STSF and the main routes of offshore export of SASW from the Patagonian shelf during austral summer (summer and early fall) and winter (winter and early spring) by using numerical hydrodynamical model results and Lagrangian tracking simulations of neutrally buoyant floats. The transport of SASW towards the open ocean is 1 Sv (1 Sv = 106 m3.s-1) during summer and 0.8 Sv during winter. SASW are exported offshore mainly near the Brazil–Malvinas Confluence (BMC) region during both seasons. The STSF appears to act as an important retention mechanism for the plankton over the inner and middle shelf mainly during late summer and early fall. Our findings could explain the life cycle of distinct fish species which are distributed in the region, as well as the population abundance variability of such species.
Abstract: The largest beds of the Patagonian scallop (Zygochlamys patagonica) have been associated with high chlorophyll- a concentration observed along the Patagonian Shelf Break Front but there is no supported hypothesis about how this benthic-pelagic connection is maintained. In this work we address the main physical processes driving the benthic-pelagic linkages through oriented numerical experiments derived from a realistic, high-resolution numerical model, and Lagrangian stochastic simulations. The results support the hypothesis of an important dynamical control of the slope current on the fate of surface released passive particles and their subsequent bottom settlement. A high percentage of the particles released at the surface settled over the scallop beds. The particles remaining at the surface layer followed a prevailing NE flow direction with low cross-shelf dispersion. Additional experiments show that the secondary cross-shelf circulation forced by the slope current promotes downwelling and hence the settlement of particles on the westward side (onshore) of the shelf break. The percent of particles settling over the scallop beds exceeded 80% by the addition of vertical stochastic turbulence and tidal forcing. These results highlight the importance of including the vertical diffusivity in particle tracking experiments to better estimate benthic-pelagic interaction processes.
Abstract: Altimeter sea surface height (SSH) fields are analyzed to define and discuss the seasonal circulation over the wide continental shelf in the SW Atlantic Ocean (278–438S) during 2001–2012. Seasonal variability is low south of the Rio de la Plata (RdlP), where winds and currents remain equatorward for most of the year. Winds and currents in the central and northern parts of our domain are also equatorward during autumn and winter but reverse to become poleward during spring and summer. Transports of shelf water to the deep ocean are strongest during summer offshore and to the southeast of the RdlP. Details of the flow are discussed using mean monthly seasonal cycles of winds, heights, and currents, along with analyses of Empirical Orthogonal Functions. Principle Estimator Patterns bring out the patterns of wind forcing and ocean response. The largest part of the seasonal variability in SSH signals is due to changes in the wind forcing (described above) and changes in the strong boundary currents that flow along the eastern boundary of the shelf. The rest of the variability contains a smaller component due to heating and expansion of the water column, concentrated in the southern part of the region next to the coast. Our results compare well to previous studies using in situ data and to results from realistic numerical models of the regional circulation.
Abstract: Satellite-derived sea surface salinity (SSS) data from Aquarius and SMOS are used to study the shelf-open ocean exchanges in the western South Atlantic near 35 S. Away from the tropics, these exchanges cause the largest SSS variability throughout the South Atlantic. The data reveal a well-defined seasonal pattern of SSS during the analyzed period and of the location of the export of low-salinity shelf waters. In spring and summer, low-salinity waters over the shelf expand offshore and are transferred to the open ocean primarily southeast of the river mouth (from 36 S to 37 300S). In contrast, in fall and winter, low-salinity waters extend along a coastal plume and the export path to the open ocean distributes along the offshore edge of the plume. The strong seasonal SSS pattern is modulated by the seasonality of the along-shelf component of the wind stress over the shelf. However, the combined analysis of SSS, satellite-derived sea surface elevation and surface velocity data suggest that the precise location of the export of shelf waters depends on offshore circulation patterns, such as the location of the Brazil Malvinas Confluence and mesoscale eddies and meanders of the Brazil Current. The satellite data indicate that in summer, mixtures of low-salinity shelf waters are swiftly driven toward the ocean interior along the axis of the Brazil/Malvinas Confluence. In winter, episodic wind reversals force the low-salinity coastal plume offshore where they mix with tropical waters within the Brazil Current and create a warmer variety of low-salinity waters in the open ocean.
Abstract: A high-resolution model is used to characterize the dominant patterns of sea surface salinity (SSS) variability generated by the freshwater discharges of the Rio de la Plata (RdlP) and the Patos/Mirim Lagoon in the southwestern Atlantic region. We identify three dominant modes of SSS variability. The first two, which have been discussed in previous studies, represent the seasonal and the interannual variations of the freshwater plumes over the continental shelf. The third mode of SSS variability, which has not been discussed hitherto, represents the salinity exchanges between the shelf and the deep ocean. A diagnostic study using floats and passive tracers identifies the pathways taken by the freshwater plumes. During the austral winter (JJA), the plumes leave the shelf region north of the BMC. During the austral summer (DJF), the plumes are entrained more directly into the BMC. A sensitivity study indicates that the high-frequency component of the wind stress forcing controls the vertical structure of the plumes while the low-frequency component of the wind stress forcing and the interannual variations of the RdlP discharge controls the horizontal structure of the plumes. Dynamical analysis reveals that the cross-shelf flow has a dominant barotropic structure and, therefore, the SSS anomalies detected by Aquarius represent net mass exchanges between the shelf and the deep ocean. The net cross-shelf volume flux is 1.21 Sv. This outflow is largely compensated by an inflow from the Patagonian shelf
Abstract: Observations show abrupt changes in the oceanic circulation of the southwestern Atlantic. These studies report a southward drift of the Brazil/Malvinas Confluence (BMC) and a change in the spectral characteristics of the Malvinas Current (MC) transport. We address the cause of these changes using the result of a high-resolution numerical experiment. The experiment, which is consistent with observations, shows a southward BMC displacement at a rate of 0.62°/decade between 1993 and 2008, and a shift of the spectral characteristics of the MC transport after 1999. We find that these changes are driven by a weakening of the northern branch of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current, which translates to a weakening of the MC transport and a southward BMC drift. The drift changes the spectral characteristics of the MC transport, which becomes more influenced by annual and semiannual variations associated with the BMC.
Abstract: This article presents the results of a high-resolution (1/12 ), two-way nested simulation of the oceanic circulation in the southwestern Atlantic region. A comparison between the model results and extant observations indicates that the nested model has skill in reproducing the best-known aspects of the regional circulation, e.g., the volume transport of the ACC, the latitudinal position of the BMC, the shelf break upwelling of Patagonia, and the Zapiola Anticyclone. Sensitivity experiments indicate that the bottom stress parameterization significantly impacts the mean location of the Brazil/Malvinas Confluence and the transport of the Zapiola Anticyclone. The transport of the Brazil Current strengthens during the austral summer and weakens during the austral winter. These variations are driven by the wind stress curl over the southwestern Atlantic. The variations of the transport of the Malvinas Current are out of phase with those of the Brazil Current. Most of the seasonal variability of this current is concentrated in the offshore portion of the jet, the inshore portion has a weak seasonality that modulates the magnitude of the Patagonian shelf break upwelling. Using passive tracers we show that most of the entrainment of deep waters into the shelf occurs in the southernmost portion of the Patagonian shelf and along the inshore boundary of the Brazil Current. Shelf waters are preferentially detrained near the Brazil/Malvinas Confluence. Consistent with previous studies, our simulation also shows that south of 42 S the Malvinas Current is composed of two jets, which merge near 42 S to form a single jet farther north.