Equilibration and Circulation of Red Sea Outflow Water in the Western Gulf of Aden

Amy S. Bower Department of Physical Oceanography, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, Massachusetts

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William E. Johns Division of Meteorology and Physical Oceanography, Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, University of Miami, Miami, Florida

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David M. Fratantoni Department of Physical Oceanography, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, Massachusetts

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Hartmut Peters Division of Meteorology and Physical Oceanography, Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, University of Miami, Miami, Florida

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Abstract

Hydrographic, direct velocity, and subsurface float observations from the 2001 Red Sea Outflow Experiment (REDSOX) are analyzed to investigate the gravitational and dynamical adjustment of the Red Sea Outflow Water (RSOW) where it is injected into the open ocean in the western Gulf of Aden. During the winter REDSOX cruise, when outflow transport was large, several intermediate-depth salinity maxima (product waters) were formed from various bathymetrically confined branches of the outflow plume, ranging in depth from 400 to 800 m and in potential density from 27.0 to 27.5 σθ, a result of different mixing intensity along each branch. The outflow product waters were not dense enough to sink to the seafloor during either the summer or winter REDSOX cruises, but analysis of previous hydrographic and mooring data and results from a one-dimensional plume model suggest that they may be so during wintertime surges of strong outflow currents, or about 20% of the time during winter. Once vertically equilibrated in the Gulf of Aden, the shallowest RSOW was strongly influenced by mesoscale eddies that swept it farther into the gulf. The deeper RSOW was initially more confined by the walls of the Tadjura Rift, but eventually it escaped from the rift and was advected mainly southward along the continental slope. There was no evidence of a continuous boundary undercurrent of RSOW similar to the Mediterranean Undercurrent in the Gulf of Cadiz. This is explained by considering 1) the variability in outflow transport and 2) several different criteria for separation of a jet at a sharp corner, which indicate that the outflow currents should separate from the boundary where they are injected into the gulf.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Amy S. Bower, MS #21, Department of Physical Oceanography, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, MA 02543. Email: abower@whoi.edu

Abstract

Hydrographic, direct velocity, and subsurface float observations from the 2001 Red Sea Outflow Experiment (REDSOX) are analyzed to investigate the gravitational and dynamical adjustment of the Red Sea Outflow Water (RSOW) where it is injected into the open ocean in the western Gulf of Aden. During the winter REDSOX cruise, when outflow transport was large, several intermediate-depth salinity maxima (product waters) were formed from various bathymetrically confined branches of the outflow plume, ranging in depth from 400 to 800 m and in potential density from 27.0 to 27.5 σθ, a result of different mixing intensity along each branch. The outflow product waters were not dense enough to sink to the seafloor during either the summer or winter REDSOX cruises, but analysis of previous hydrographic and mooring data and results from a one-dimensional plume model suggest that they may be so during wintertime surges of strong outflow currents, or about 20% of the time during winter. Once vertically equilibrated in the Gulf of Aden, the shallowest RSOW was strongly influenced by mesoscale eddies that swept it farther into the gulf. The deeper RSOW was initially more confined by the walls of the Tadjura Rift, but eventually it escaped from the rift and was advected mainly southward along the continental slope. There was no evidence of a continuous boundary undercurrent of RSOW similar to the Mediterranean Undercurrent in the Gulf of Cadiz. This is explained by considering 1) the variability in outflow transport and 2) several different criteria for separation of a jet at a sharp corner, which indicate that the outflow currents should separate from the boundary where they are injected into the gulf.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Amy S. Bower, MS #21, Department of Physical Oceanography, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, MA 02543. Email: abower@whoi.edu

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