Variability in the Canary Islands area of filament-eddy exchanges

Eric D. Barton, Javier Arístegui, Paul Tett, Eleuteria Navarro-Pérez

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88 Citations (Scopus)


The physical background to a suite of biological studies carried out in the Canary Islands upwelling region is presented. The area is unique in that the coastal transition zone is spanned by an archipelago of islands that shed mesoscale eddies of diameter 50-100 km into the alongshore flow. A recurrent filament and eddy system was sampled intensively to study the changing properties of waters as they are advected towards the open ocean in the filament and to investigate the exchanges between filament and eddies. The system was more complex than previously revealed. In early August, a single filament extended offshore from near Cape Juby. Two weeks later, a second filament had developed slightly farther north and extended offshore to merge with the first at ∼100 km offshore. The merged filament was entrained around a recurrent, topographically trapped cyclonic eddy and interacted with transient cyclonic and anticyclonic eddies shed from the island of Gran Canaria. Between the two filaments and the coast, a pair of counter-rotating eddies re-circulated water parcels for several weeks. Surface layer drifters cycled around this near-shore re-circulation several times before following convoluted paths that demonstrate significant exchange between continental shelf and open ocean waters.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)71-94
Number of pages24
JournalProgress in Oceanography
Issue number2-4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2004


  • Africa
  • Canary Islands
  • Cape Juby
  • Eddies
  • Filaments
  • Islands
  • Jets
  • Mixing
  • Upwelling


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