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Large-Scale Atmospheric Circulation Favoring Deep- and Intermediate-Water Formation in the Mediterranean Sea

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  • 1 * Hellenic Center for Marine Research, Patras, Greece
  • | 2 National Oceanography Centre, Southampton, United Kingdom
  • | 3 Department of Physics, University of Ioannina, Ioannina, Greece
  • | 4 Météo-France (CNRM-GAME), Centre National de Recherches Météorologiques, Toulouse, France
  • | 5 IMEDEA (CSIC-UIB), Mallorca, Spain
  • | 6 ** Hellenic Center for Marine Research, Anavissos, Greece
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Abstract

Atmospheric circulation patterns that are conducive to extreme ocean heat loss are investigated at four sites of special interest in the Mediterranean Sea. The Gulf of Lions, the South Adriatic Sea, the Cretan Sea, and the Levantine Sea are areas where anomalously high winter heat loss may lead to deep- or intermediate-water formation. At each of the above sites, the atmospheric circulation during such events is derived by averaging the sea level pressure (SLP) fields during the lower decile of the wintertime series of the net heat exchange. A relatively simple SLP pattern dominated by an anticyclone over northwestern Europe with a weaker cyclone to the southeast is found to be associated with strong heat loss in the selected sites with minor variations in pattern structure depending on the site. The SLP composite pattern reflects the combined effect of different atmospheric modes of variability and the authors consider the impacts on heat loss of a number of these modes (North Atlantic Oscillation, east Atlantic pattern, east Atlantic–west Russia pattern, and Scandinavian pattern), together with the North Sea–Caspian pattern and the Mediterranean index. The extremes in heat loss are strongly connected with the intensity and the positions of the poles of these patterns that modulate, through the necessary SLP gradient and associated northerlies, the transfer of cold and dry air over the areas of dense-water formation. Analysis of air–sea temperature difference, specific humidity, and evaporation anomalies indicates that the extremes of the net heat fluxes are primarily due to the latent and sensible heat flux components.

Corresponding author address: Vassilis P. Papadopoulos, Hellenic Centre for Marine Research, Institute of Oceanography, 46.7 Km Athinon-Souniou Ave., Anavissos, Attica 19013, Greece. E-mail: vassilis@hcmr.gr

Abstract

Atmospheric circulation patterns that are conducive to extreme ocean heat loss are investigated at four sites of special interest in the Mediterranean Sea. The Gulf of Lions, the South Adriatic Sea, the Cretan Sea, and the Levantine Sea are areas where anomalously high winter heat loss may lead to deep- or intermediate-water formation. At each of the above sites, the atmospheric circulation during such events is derived by averaging the sea level pressure (SLP) fields during the lower decile of the wintertime series of the net heat exchange. A relatively simple SLP pattern dominated by an anticyclone over northwestern Europe with a weaker cyclone to the southeast is found to be associated with strong heat loss in the selected sites with minor variations in pattern structure depending on the site. The SLP composite pattern reflects the combined effect of different atmospheric modes of variability and the authors consider the impacts on heat loss of a number of these modes (North Atlantic Oscillation, east Atlantic pattern, east Atlantic–west Russia pattern, and Scandinavian pattern), together with the North Sea–Caspian pattern and the Mediterranean index. The extremes in heat loss are strongly connected with the intensity and the positions of the poles of these patterns that modulate, through the necessary SLP gradient and associated northerlies, the transfer of cold and dry air over the areas of dense-water formation. Analysis of air–sea temperature difference, specific humidity, and evaporation anomalies indicates that the extremes of the net heat fluxes are primarily due to the latent and sensible heat flux components.

Corresponding author address: Vassilis P. Papadopoulos, Hellenic Centre for Marine Research, Institute of Oceanography, 46.7 Km Athinon-Souniou Ave., Anavissos, Attica 19013, Greece. E-mail: vassilis@hcmr.gr
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