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Giant Ocean Eddies Discovered

Item #d99may50

According to a Feb. 23, 1999, press release from CSIRO, Australian and U.S. oceanographers taking part in the World Ocean Circulation Experiment have discovered dramatic ocean eddies produced by the South Equatorial Current that flows across the Indian Ocean towards Africa. The eddies are larger than Tasmania and a kilometre deep in the Indian Ocean northwest of Australia. As its flow builds up, the current becomes unstable, particularly from June to December, and eddies peel off. These massive ocean eddies form every two months and cause mixing that alters the characteristics of the ocean in a region that is a source for rainfall across southern and western Australia. An understanding of how the Indonesian throughflow and the local currents interact should contribute to improved rainfall predictions for Australia and a recognition of El Niño and La Niña features extending into the Indian Ocean. What is amazing is that such an enormous natural feature has remained undiscovered until now. The ocean features were confirmed with observations from the French/US satellite TOPEX-Poseidon.

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