University of Cape Town

The prime interest of the UCT team collaborating in GATEWAYS is to apply ocean and atmospheric circulation models to better understand, firstly, the influence of Agulhas Current leakage and ring shedding on the water mass properties of the southeast Atlantic, and secondly, the role that the large poleward heat transport of the Agulhas Current has on southern African climate and its variability. This work uses data from both present and previous climates and, thus, needs input from the other collaborating groups in order to design and analyse the various model experiments appropriately. The model data generated by the UCT team are available to the other project teams for comparison with their results and for synthesis into a broader understanding of how the Agulhas Current has contributed to regional and global climates throughout the palaeo- and historical record.

Ocean modelling at UCT primarily uses the Regional Ocean Modelling System (ROMS) that is currently being widely applied locally to the South East Atlantic, South West Indian and tropical Indian Oceans by various researchers in the Oceanography Dept. Atmospheric modelling uses the global UKMO HadAM3 circulation model and the NCAR / Penn State regional model MM5. Boundary conditions and forcing for the models are obtained from various observational and model data sets; in particular, we need output from the ocean NEMO model being produced by partner IFM-GEOMAR.

Output from the various model experiments is made available to all partner teams for comparison with available observations and output from other models. In addition, the models are coupled using SME partner DKRZ developed software in order to assess the regional ocean-atmosphere feedbacks of importance during different historical and paleo-climates.

The UCT team concentrates, firstly, on how the Agulhas Current influences the water mass properties of the South East Atlantic through largely sub-surface ocean processes (cross-linking with partners UAB, VUA, NIOZ, IFM-GEOMAR). The second major research concentration of the UCT team involves the analysis of the influence of the Agulhas Current on the climate and its variability of neighboring southern Africa through largely surface ocean and atmospheric processes (cross-linking with partners UAB, GSI, IFM-GEOMAR). In both cases, input from partners DKRZ and Simultec is required for high-performance computing, data management / visualization and for coupling of the models.

Partner Profile

The Department of Oceanography at the University of Cape Town is the only one of its kind in sub-Saharan Africa. It offers undergraduate and postgraduate training in Physical and Chemical Oceanography, Climate Science and Atmospheric Science. Currently, there are about 15 MSc and 20 PhD students and several post-doctoral fellows in the department. Research is carried out on a range of problems related to the Agulhas and Benguela Current systems, the Indian, South Atlantic and Southern Oceans, the climate of the Southern Hemisphere, severe weather, regional oceanatmosphere interaction, remote sensing and marine chemistry. The department hosts the Marine Research Institute which brings together over 40 academic staff and researchers at UCT who have interests and expertise in many areas of Marine Science.

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