On the circulation of water masses across the Mascarene Plateau in the South Indian Ocean

New, A.L. ORCID:; Alderson, S.G.; Smeed, D.A. ORCID:; Stansfield, K.L.. 2007 On the circulation of water masses across the Mascarene Plateau in the South Indian Ocean. Deep-Sea Research I, 54 (1). 42-74.

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The South Equatorial Current (SEC) is the major westward current in the South Indian Ocean. It crosses the Mascarene Plateau, an extensive range of banks and islands, near 60°E, but how this occurs has until now been unclear. Here, we present the results of a recent survey during June–July 2002 using a suite of modern instrumentation, and provide a detailed examination of this process, and the water masses involved. Upstream from the Plateau the SEC carries 50–55 Sv (1 Sv=106 m3/s) westwards between 10 and 16°S. As it approaches the Plateau, 25 Sv of this is constricted to pass over a narrow sill (about which we provide new information) between the Saya De Malha and Nazareth Banks at 12–13° S. This then forms a northern core to the SEC between 10 and 14°S downstream from the Plateau (25 Sv). The remainder of the inflow passes either around the northern edge of the Saya De Malha Bank (8–9°S) or between Mauritius and the Cargados Carajos Bank (18–20°S). The former may retroflect to flow eastwards near 8°S, joining the South Equatorial Counter Current (SECC), whereas the latter, strengthened near Mauritius by further flows from the south, forms a southern core to the SEC downstream from the Plateau (20–25 Sv between 17 and 20°S). The overall effect of the Plateau is to split the SEC into two cores. On reaching Madagascar, these cores may then form the Northeast and Southeast Madagascar Currents. The SEC also forms a sharp boundary between upper and intermediate level water masses. Subtropical Surface Water (STSW), Sub-Antarctic Mode Water (SAMW) and Antarctic Intermediate Water (AAIW) are present on the southern side of the SEC, whereas Arabian Sea High Salinity Water (ASHSW) and Red Sea Water (RSW) are found on its northern side. As they approach the Plateau, the STSW and SAMW are partially drawn northwards, and Tropical Surface Water (TSW) is drawn southwards, in order to flow across the sill near 12–13°S. At deeper levels, North Indian Deep Water (NIDW) passes southwards below the SEC on the western side of the Plateau, and while there is no indication of North Atlantic Deep Water, Antarctic Bottom Water (AABW) is present west of the Plateau. Finally, there is evidence of significant mixing in the upper and intermediate waters (the TSW, STSW, SAMW and RSW) as they pass across the sill at 12–13°S, and also in the deeper waters on the eastern side of the Plateau above the rough bottom topography of the Central Indian Ridge.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
ISSN: 0967-0637
Additional Keywords: Circulation; Water masses; Mixing; South Equatorial Current; Mascarene Plateau; South Indian Ocean (5–20°S; 55–65°E)
Date made live: 07 Feb 2007 +0 (UTC)

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