Malvinas Current at 44.7ºS: First assessment of velocity temporal variability from in situ data
Event: 2020 Ocean Surface Topography Science Team Meeting (virtual)
Session: Science III: Mesoscale and sub-mesoscale oceanography
Presentation type: Type Forum
We report current meter measurements obtained by one oceanographic buoy and three tall-moorings deployed in a zonal section across the Malvinas Current (MC) at 44.7ºS during 18 months between December 2015-June 2017. Previous measurements of the MC strength have been reported only close to the Brazil-Malvinas Confluence, hindering the interpretation of the flow variability. The record-length time averaged velocities and variance ellipses indicate a strong northward along-isobath flow with an equivalent-barotropic structure. The meridional velocities at the western and eastern moorings are not correlated and show large amplitude oscillations which are coherent with the passage of mesoscale features over the moorings. Satellite altimetry data, that are highly correlated with 20-day low-pass filtered in situ velocities (r~0.80), show that the MC variability is affected by the propagation of sea level anomalies (SLA) along the Patagonian slope with phase speeds that range between 0.21 ± 0.04 m s-1 and 0.14 ± 0.01 m s-1. SLAs propagate northward along the slope following contours of constant potential vorticity and its phase speeds decrease towards the east across the slope. SLAs that mostly affect the western mooring originate in the northern flank of the North Scotia Ridge while SLAs that mostly affect the eastern mooring originate along the Malvinas Escarpment, along the northern edge of the Malvinas Plateau. We suggest that the interaction between eddies and the complex bathymetry at those locations generate instabilities that enhance the generation of mesoscale structures that propagate in the flow direction along the western boundary of the Argentine Basin affecting the variability of the MC velocities.