Interbasin deep water exchange in the western Mediterranean

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Journal of Geophysical Research-Oceans
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Oct 15
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Owing to its nearly enclosed nature, the Tyrrhenian Sea at first sight is expected to have a small impact on the distribution and characteristics of water masses in the other basins of the western Mediterranean, The first evidence that the Tyrrhenian Sea might, in fact, play an important role in the deep and intermediate water circulation of the entire western Mediterranean was put forward by Hopkins [1988]. There, an outflow of water from the Tyrrhenian Sea into the Algero Provencal Basin was postulated in the depth range 700-1000 m, to compensate for an observed inflow of deeper water into the Tyrrhenian Sea. However, this outflow, the Tyrrhenian Deep Water (TDW), was undetectable since it would have hydrographic characteristics that could also be produced within the Algero-Provencal Basin. A new data set of hydrographic, tracer, lowered Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler (LADCP), and deep float observations presented here allows us now to identify and track the TDW in the Algero-Provencal Basin and to demonstrate the presence and huge extent of this water mass throughout the western Mediterranean. It extends from 600 m to 1600-1900 m depth and thus occupies much of the deep water regime. The outflow from the Tyrrhenian is estimated to be of the order of 0.4 Sv (Sv=10(6) m(3) s(-1)), based on the tracer balances. This transport has the same order of magnitude as the deep water formation rate in the Gulf of Lions. The Tyrrhenian Sea effectively removes convectively generated deep water (Western Mediterranean Deep Water (WMDW)) from the Algero-Provencal Basin, mixes it with Levantine Intermediate water (LIW) above, and reinjects the product into the Algero-Provencal Basin at a level between the WMDW and LIW, thus smoothing the temperature and salinity gradients between these water masses. The tracer characteristics of the TDW and the lowered ADCP and deep float observations document the expected but weak cyclonic circulation and larger flows in a vigorous eddy regime in the basin interior.


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