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Two Circulation Regimes of the Mediterranean Outflow Revealed by Lagrangian Measurements

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  • * AINCO-Interocean, Madrid, Spain
  • | + Graduate School of Oceanography, University of Rhode Island, Narragansett, Rhode Island
  • | # National Centre for Marine Research, Athens, Greece
  • | @ Institut für Meereskunde an der Universität Kiel, Kiel, Germany
  • | & Southampton Oceanography Centre, Southampton, United Kingdom
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Abstract

The Eurofloat experiment was a joint initiative to examine the large-scale spreading of Mediterranean Water (MW) and Labrador Sea Water in the northeast North Atlantic. RAFOS float data from the southern (MW) portion of the Eurofloat experiment have been examined in conjunction with historical float data in order to calculate quasi-Eulerian means in an effort to separate and quantify the constituents of the spreading of the MW tongue east of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. While recent studies focussed chiefly on the role of meddies in the shaping of the MW tongue, this analysis also examines the tongue's second constituent, that is, the “background” (non-meddy advective and diffusive) flow. The results suggest the existence of two regimes approximately to the north and south of the 36°N parallel (i.e., the latitude of the Gulf of Cadiz), which are distinguished by different types of dominant spreading mechanisms for MW. To the south of the Gulf of Cadiz, the background flow shows an incoherent and weak mean, whereas the mean velocity of the salt enhanced meddies is strong and to the southwest. In contrast, to the north of 36°N the mean velocity of the meddies seems to be less pronounced and the background flow is shown to be a major component in the northwestward spreading of the MW tongue. The two regimes are separated by the Azores Current, which previously has been hypothesized to act as a dynamic barrier to the southward advective spreading of the background regime, which the meddies are able to penetrate because of their high kinetic energy. Overall, the meddies are calculated to contribute to approximately half of the total salinity anomaly flux.

Current affiliation: Southampton Oceanography Centre, Southampton, United Kingdom

Corresponding author address: Dr. Michael Sparrow, James Rennell Division (269/19), Southampton Oceanography Centre, Empress Dock, Southampton SO14 3ZH, United Kingdom. Email: mdsp@soc.soton.ac.uk

Abstract

The Eurofloat experiment was a joint initiative to examine the large-scale spreading of Mediterranean Water (MW) and Labrador Sea Water in the northeast North Atlantic. RAFOS float data from the southern (MW) portion of the Eurofloat experiment have been examined in conjunction with historical float data in order to calculate quasi-Eulerian means in an effort to separate and quantify the constituents of the spreading of the MW tongue east of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. While recent studies focussed chiefly on the role of meddies in the shaping of the MW tongue, this analysis also examines the tongue's second constituent, that is, the “background” (non-meddy advective and diffusive) flow. The results suggest the existence of two regimes approximately to the north and south of the 36°N parallel (i.e., the latitude of the Gulf of Cadiz), which are distinguished by different types of dominant spreading mechanisms for MW. To the south of the Gulf of Cadiz, the background flow shows an incoherent and weak mean, whereas the mean velocity of the salt enhanced meddies is strong and to the southwest. In contrast, to the north of 36°N the mean velocity of the meddies seems to be less pronounced and the background flow is shown to be a major component in the northwestward spreading of the MW tongue. The two regimes are separated by the Azores Current, which previously has been hypothesized to act as a dynamic barrier to the southward advective spreading of the background regime, which the meddies are able to penetrate because of their high kinetic energy. Overall, the meddies are calculated to contribute to approximately half of the total salinity anomaly flux.

Current affiliation: Southampton Oceanography Centre, Southampton, United Kingdom

Corresponding author address: Dr. Michael Sparrow, James Rennell Division (269/19), Southampton Oceanography Centre, Empress Dock, Southampton SO14 3ZH, United Kingdom. Email: mdsp@soc.soton.ac.uk

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