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Like all the major upwelling regions, the Canary Current is characterized by intense mesoscale structure in the transition zone between the cool, nutrient-rich waters of the coastal upwelling regime and the warmer, oligotrophic waters of the open ocean. The Canary Island archipelago, which straddles the transition, introduces a second source of variability by perturbing the general south westward flow of both ocean currents and Trade winds. The combined effects of the flow disturbance and the eddying and meandering of the boundary between upwelled and oceanic waters produce a complex pattern of regional variability. On the basis of historical data and a series of interdisciplinary field studies, the principal features of the region are described. These include a prominent upwelling filament originating near 28 degrees N off the African coast, cylonic and anti-cyclonic eddies downstream of the archipelago, and warm wake regions protected from the Trade winds by the high volcanic peaks of the islands. The filament is shown to be a recurrent feature, apparently arizing from the interaction of a topographically trapped cyclonic eddy with the outer edge of the coastal upwelling zone.Its role in the transport and exchange of biogenic material, including fish larvae, is considered. Strong cyclonic eddies, observed throughout the year, drift slowly south-westward from Gran Canaria. One sampled in late summer was characterized by large vertical isopycnal displacements apparent surface divergence and strong upwelling, producing a fourfold increase in chlorophyll concentrations over background values. Such intense eddies can be responsible for a major contribution to the vertical flux of nitrogen. The lee region of Gran Canaria is shown to be a location of strong pycnocline deformation resulting from Ekman pumping on the wind shear boundaries, which may contribute to the eddy formation process.

Additional information

Bibliographic Reference: Article: Progress in Oceanography 41(1998), 455-504
Record Number: 199910375 / Last updated on: 1999-03-12
Original language: en
Available languages: en
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