Numerical modelling of the coastal ocean off Tanzania

Master Thesis


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University of Cape Town

In this model study of the coastal ocean off Tanzania, the Regional Ocean Modelling System (ROMS) was employed to model the coastal ocean off Tanzania over the domain of 5°N-15°S and 38-55°E. It was integrated for ten years with monthly mean Comprehensive Ocean and Atmosphere Data Sets (COADS) winds and heat fluxes. Initial and lateral boundary conditions were derived from the World Ocean Atlas. The model was used to simulate the annual cycle, and the sea surface temperature (SST) output compared with the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) Microwave Imager (TMI) sea surface temperature (SST) measurements for the same region. Although broadly comparable, the model SST was generally warmer than that of TMI data. The high SSTs in the Tanzanian coastal waters (greater than 28°C) occur from December to May while SSTs of less than 28°C occur during the rest of the year. The East African Coastal Current (EACC) experiences its lowest spatial and temporal average speeds (about 0.4ms- 1) in February and its maximum speed (1.7 ms⁻¹) in July. Speeds of greater than 1 ms⁻¹ occur during both transition seasons north of 6°S. The meridional wind stresses appear to be positively correlated with the EACC(r>0.6) in all locations and they are statistically significant (p<0.05). The annual cycle of the model flow in the southern Tanzanian waters seems to be positively correlated with the flow to the north of Madagascar (r=0.57 and p=O.O5). The flow in these regions changes in phase with each other from October to April and June to July with minimum speeds in November. For the other months, the flow in these regions is out of phase with each other. The model currents off southern Tanzania attain their maximum speeds in August when the South West monsoon is fully developed while the flow north of Madagascar attains its maximum speed in September when the South West monsoon fades. However, the flow in the southern Tanzanian waters is more affected by the reversal of winds over the tropical western Indian Ocean (r=0.69, p=0.01) than that north of Madagascar (r=0.51, p=0.09). This difference results in a larger annual speed range in the flow off southern Tanzania (about 0.4 ms⁻¹ ) than that to the north of Madagascar (about 0.3ms⁻¹). The ROMS model realistically simulates the annual cycle of the sea surface temperature and heat flux, the East African Coastal Current and the annual cycle of the flow entering the coastal ocean off the southern part of Tanzania. However, studies which integrate the large scale domain and regional coupled ocean-atmosphere interactions are needed to better understand of the East African climate and ocean variability. Such model results combined with suitable remote sensing and in situ observations will help improve understanding of the circulation and properties of the coastal ocean off Tanzania.

Includes bibliographical references (pages 71-89).