This award will provide partial support for a Chapman Conference on the Agulhas system that will be held 8-12 October 2012 in Western Cape, South Africa. Chapman Conferences are topic meetings sponsored by the American Geophysical Union and are designed to promote opportunities to discuss scientific issues that are not normally available at larger meetings. Attendance at the October conference is expected to be on the order of 125 participants to include senior scientists, midcareer scientists, postdoctoral researchers, and students.
The Agulhas System plays a significant role in the global ocean circulation and climate. Warm, saline waters from the Indian Ocean flow into the Atlantic as part of the interocean exchange around the southern tip of Africa. Ongoing increases in this so-called Agulhas Leakage, presently under anthropogenic forcing, could strengthen the global overturning circulation in the Atlantic at a time when warming and accelerated meltwater input in the North Atlantic are predicted to weaken it. However compared to processes in the North Atlantic, the Agulhas system has been largely ignored as a potential trigger or stabilizer of climate variability. At regional scales the Agulhas influences extreme weather events while interannual rainfall variations in southern Africa are correlated with warm and cold anomalies in the Agulhas system, associated with the Indian Ocean climate modes. Large Marine Ecosystems in the region and the distribution of large pelagic species and their fisheries are also influenced by variations in the physical Agulhas system in an as yet poorly known manner.
The purpose of this Chapman Conference is to identify the most pressing questions and to design modeling experiments in combination with paleoceanographic and (sustained) modern observations to establish the role of the Agulhas system from regional to global scales.
; Stellenbosch, South Africa, 8–12 October 2012 The AGU Chapman Conference on the Agulhas system was the first held on the African continent. There was a feeling of excitement among participants about the great diversity of ongoing research related to the Agulhas Current system, including its role in global and regional climate, its possible influence on human origins in southern Africa, its link to the Madagascar phytoplankton bloom, and its influence on South Atlantic hurricane development (Catarina) through warming related to Agulhas leakage over the past decades. The conference was organized into four thematic sessions: the state and dynamics of the Agulhas Current in the present and the geological past; the effects of the current on regional weather, ecosystems, and fisheries; the mechanisms that link the Agulhas to changes in ocean circulation and climate; and its impact on the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) and global climate. The conference was attended by 108 participants from 20 different countries, including 35 from 7 African countries, and 27 Ph.D. students. The conference was opened by Gansen Pillay, vice?president of the National Research Foundation in South Africa (NRF). Participants covered the fi elds of ocean and climate modeling, physical and biological oceanography, marine ecology, paleoceanography, meteorology, and marine and terrestrial paleoclimatology. A major recommendation from the conference is to develop sustained observations of the Agulhas system. The Western Indian Ocean Sustainable Ecosystem Alliance (WIOSEA) could serve as an integrating framework for the cooperation of international and regional scientists toward sustained observations. Further capacity building and training of regional technicians and scientists are essential and could take place through partnerships with the NRF. The conference was realized by Scientific Committee on Oceanic Research (SCOR)/ World Climate Research Program (WCRP)/International Association for the Physical Sciences of the Oceans (IAPSO) Working Group 136 on the Climatic Importance of the Greater Agulhas System. The conference organizers thank the many sponsors of the conference, including the International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics, U.S. National Science Foundation, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Past Global Changes (PAGES), Institute of Research for Development (IRD) France, and the Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research.