Indian eddies supply Atlantic ocean with warm waterTheallIneed.com/NC&T/NWO
Over the past four years, the Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research (NIOZ) on Texel, in partnership with Utrecht University and the University of Cape Town, has carried out a large NWO-funded project into the Agulhas eddies, which transport seawater from the Indian Ocean to the South Atlantic Ocean. During this project the NIOZ research vessel 'Pelagia' and the University of Cape Town's research vessel 'Agulhas' were remotely navigated by the Utrecht researchers, who interpreted satellite images from behind their computers. Satellite images revealed that the warm Agulhas eddies rose up as small hills above the Atlantic Ocean with a maximum height of about one metre.
Moreover, Van Veldhoven visited the eddies on three occasions onboard the research vessel. The Agulhas eddies turned out to be large warm rings of water from the Indian Ocean with a diameter of about 300 kilometres within which the water sometimes rotated at a speed of more than 3.6 kilometres per hour in an anticlockwise direction. To everyone's surprise the eddy was found to stretch from the ocean surface right down to the ocean floor at a depth of some five kilometres; it therefore has a volume of about 350,000 cubic kilometres.
On the ocean surface, young eddies are at most 5 degrees Celsius warmer than the surrounding Atlantic Ocean. Due to their enormous volume, the eddies import considerable quantities of heat into the Atlantic Ocean.
|Astrid van Veldhoven investigated the Agulhas eddies. This infrared satellite image, taken on 23 March 2000, shows an Agulhas eddy which has already cooled down (green) surrounded by a warm filament of the Agulhas return current (yellow). (Photo: NWO)|
The knowledge acquired from this research will be used to improve computer models of the global ocean circulation. Such models are necessary for improved predictions of climate change and the degree of global warming due to the greenhouse effect.
Astrid van Veldhoven's research was funded by NWO.
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