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Mixing and Entrainment in the Red Sea Outflow Plume. Part I: Plume Structure

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  • 1 Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, University of Miami, Miami, Florida
  • | 2 Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, Massachusetts
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Abstract

When the salty and heavy water of the Red Sea exits from the Strait of Bab el Mandeb, it continues downslope into the Gulf of Aden mainly along two channels. The 130-km-long “Northern Channel” (NC) is topographically confined and is typically only 5 km wide. In it, the Red Sea plume shows unanticipated patterns of vertical structure, turbulent mixing, and entrainment. Above the seafloor a 25–120-m-thick weakly stratified layer shows little dilution along the channel. Hence this bottom layer undergoes only weak entrainment. In contrast, a 35–285-m-thick interfacial layer shows stronger entrainment and is shown in a companion paper to undergo vigorous turbulent mixing. It is thus the interface that exhibits the bulk of entrainment of the Red Sea plume in the NC. The interfacial layer also carries most of the overall plume transport, increasingly so with downstream distance. The “Southern Channel” (SC) is wider than the NC and is accessed from the latter by a sill about 33 m above the floor of the NC. Entrainment into the bottom layer of the SC is diagnosed to be strong near the entry into the SC such that the near-bottom density and salinity are smaller in the SC than in the NC at the same distance from Bab el Mandeb. In comparison with winter conditions, the authors encountered weaker outflow with shallower equilibration depths during the summer cruise. Bulk Froude numbers computed for the whole plume varied within the range 0.2–1. Local maxima occurred in relatively steep channel sections and coincided with locations of significant entrainment.

Corresponding author address: H. Peters, Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, University of Miami, Miami, FL 33149. Email: hpeters@rsmas.miami.edu

Abstract

When the salty and heavy water of the Red Sea exits from the Strait of Bab el Mandeb, it continues downslope into the Gulf of Aden mainly along two channels. The 130-km-long “Northern Channel” (NC) is topographically confined and is typically only 5 km wide. In it, the Red Sea plume shows unanticipated patterns of vertical structure, turbulent mixing, and entrainment. Above the seafloor a 25–120-m-thick weakly stratified layer shows little dilution along the channel. Hence this bottom layer undergoes only weak entrainment. In contrast, a 35–285-m-thick interfacial layer shows stronger entrainment and is shown in a companion paper to undergo vigorous turbulent mixing. It is thus the interface that exhibits the bulk of entrainment of the Red Sea plume in the NC. The interfacial layer also carries most of the overall plume transport, increasingly so with downstream distance. The “Southern Channel” (SC) is wider than the NC and is accessed from the latter by a sill about 33 m above the floor of the NC. Entrainment into the bottom layer of the SC is diagnosed to be strong near the entry into the SC such that the near-bottom density and salinity are smaller in the SC than in the NC at the same distance from Bab el Mandeb. In comparison with winter conditions, the authors encountered weaker outflow with shallower equilibration depths during the summer cruise. Bulk Froude numbers computed for the whole plume varied within the range 0.2–1. Local maxima occurred in relatively steep channel sections and coincided with locations of significant entrainment.

Corresponding author address: H. Peters, Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, University of Miami, Miami, FL 33149. Email: hpeters@rsmas.miami.edu

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