The Agulhas Current is an energetic current driven by the warming Indian oceans, and wind fields resulting from this. It has a profound effect on the European climate, and the coastal climate of South Africa while playing a key role in the global ocean circulation. Until recently little was really known about this small but very important current which now has the attention of oceanographers worldwide.
The current carries warm salty water away from the tropics down south around the Cape of Good Hope, where “Eddies”, warm salty rings of water some up to 300km in diameter spin off the current as it turns back on itself. These warm salty rings, work as plunging agents pushing and moving the warm waters north, to deliver a moderate climate to Europe. Increased salt delivers a positive transport system to Europe, while any change to these salty eddies, either slower or faster could change Europe’s climate system.
Since the 1980’s the sea surface temperature of the Agulhas Current system has increased significantly , leading to an influx of salt and heat into the Atlantic Ocean. There is also a direct link between the transfer of energy carried by this current to the atmosphere due to increased evaporation.
Scientists are studying the Agulhas current closely to monitor changes that could have far reaching consequences over and above their potential regional impacts on ecosystems and climate this century.