Three decades of research on the greater Agulhas Current
- Department of Oceanography, University of Cape Town, 7700 Rondebosch, South Africa
Abstract. The greater Agulhas Current has been shown to be a key link in the global thermohaline circulation and an increased understanding of this current system is therefore of more than just local interest. Knowledge on the Agulhas Current system has in fact increased enormously over the past 30 years. This review covers some aspects of what has been learnt on the northern and the southern parts of the Agulhas Current proper and their influence on the waters and circulation of the adjoining continental shelf. It also discusses the Natal Pulse and new information that has been gained on how it is triggered and what influence it has. It deals with the Agulhas retroflection, the shedding of Agulhas rings and the movement and characteristics of these rings that contributes to the meridional overturning circulation of the global ocean. The Agulhas Return Current forms part of the final outflow of the system and current knowledge on that current is appraised. The sources of the Agulhas Current have been a controversial subject for many years and this dispute continues. This is described and discussed, based on what information has been gained from research over the past three decades. Building on what is currently known, some suggestions are given on the most important remaining knowledge gaps and how these could most efficaciously be filled.