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Journal Articles Nature Geoscience Year : 2021

Atlantic Equatorial Undercurrent intensification counteracts warming-induced deoxygenation

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Peter Brandt
Johannes Hahn
Sunke Schmidtko
  • Function : Author
Franz Philip Tuchen
  • Function : Author
Robert Kopte
  • Function : Author
Rainer Kiko
Rena Czeschel
  • Function : Author
Marcus Dengler


The tropical Atlantic upper-ocean circulation experiences multiannual to decadal changes associated with different climate modes and is simultaneously adjusting to climate warming. The most energetic current in the tropical Atlantic is the Equatorial Undercurrent (EUC), which flows eastwards along the Equator. On the basis of long-term moored observations, we show that the EUC strengthened by more than 20% from 2008 to 2018. The intensification of the EUC is associated with increasing subsurface oxygen concentrations and a thickening of the upper-ocean oxygenated layer in the equatorial Atlantic. These changes counteract climate-warming-induced deoxygenation in the region. The EUC strengthening is found to be mainly forced by trade wind changes in the western tropical North Atlantic. A 60-yr dataset reveals that the recent oxygen increase in the upper equatorial Atlantic is associated with multidecadal variability. This variability is characterized by low oxygen concentrations in the 1990s and early 2000s, and high oxygen concentrations in the 1960s and 1970s. The observed oxygen variability seems to be linked to a compression and expansion of the habitat of tropical pelagic fish, and must be accounted for when evaluating the possible consequences of deoxygenation for marine ecosystems and fisheries.

Dates and versions

insu-03661719 , version 1 (07-05-2022)



Peter Brandt, Johannes Hahn, Sunke Schmidtko, Franz Philip Tuchen, Robert Kopte, et al.. Atlantic Equatorial Undercurrent intensification counteracts warming-induced deoxygenation. Nature Geoscience, 2021, 14, pp.278-282. ⟨10.1038/s41561-021-00716-1⟩. ⟨insu-03661719⟩
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