Agulhas Current

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The Agulhas Current is the Western Boundary Current of the South-West Indian Ocean and is part of the westward-flowing South Equatorial Current. It flows down the east coast of Africa from 27S to 40S. It is narrow, swift and strong.

The sources of the Agulhas Current are the East Madagascar Current, the Mozambique Current and a reticulated part of the Agulhas Current itself. The flow of the Agulhas Current is directed by the topography. The current follows the continental shelf from Maputo to the tip of the Agulhas Bank (Cape Agulhas). Here the momentum of the current overcomes the vorticity balance holding the current to the topography and the current leaves the shelf. In the South-East Atlantic Ocean the current retroflects (turns back on itself) in the Agulhas Retroflection, becoming the Agulhas Return Current. This returns to the Indian Ocean and contributes the major part of the volume of the Agulhas Current by recirculation.

Where the Agulhas turns back on itself the loop of the retroflection pinches off periodically, on average about once every two months, releasing a retroflection eddy into the South Atlantic Ocean. This retroflection eddy or Agulhas ring enters the flow of the Benguela Current and is translated north-westward across the Atlantic Ocean.

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