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Transport and Entrainment in the Red Sea Outflow Plume

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  • 1 Division of Meteorology and Physical Oceanography, Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, University of Miami, Miami, Florida
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Abstract

The Red Sea outflow exhibits strong seasonal variability in outflow transport due to effects of monsoon winds and seasonal fluctuations in buoyancy forcing. As it descends the continental slope in the western Gulf of Aden, it entrains significantly less-dense near-surface water, which itself varies on seasonal time scales. High-resolution hydrographic and direct velocity data collected during the 2001 Red Sea Outflow Experiment (REDSOX) are used herein to characterize and quantify the pathways of the Red Sea Outflow Water (RSOW) and the associated entrainment of Gulf of Aden Water. The outflow transport exhibits a maximum in winter of about 0.29 Sv (Sv ≡ 106 m3 s−1) at the exit of the Bab-el-Mandeb and approximately doubles to 0.56 Sv as it descends into the Gulf of Aden and entrains ambient water. In summer, the outflow is much weaker, reaching about 0.06 Sv at the strait and about 0.18 Sv downstream. The outflow plume divides into three distinct branches in winter, consisting of descending branches along two bathymetrically confined channels (the “Northern” and “Southern” channels, respectively), and an adjusted intrusion layer at shallower depths in the water column. Estimates of transport of “pure” Red Sea Outflow Water through salt flux conservation show the general partitioning of the outflow between the individual plumes, where the Northern Channel (NC) accounts for 52% of Red Sea Outflow Water, the Southern Channel (SC) carries 31%, and the intrusion layer (IL) the remaining 17%. The results also indicate that the transport of Red Sea Outflow Water is subject to considerable synoptic temporal variability that is unresolved by the present study.

Corresponding author address: Dr. William E. Johns, Division of Meteorology and Physical Oceanography, Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, University of Miami, 4600 Rickenbacker Causeway, Miami, FL 33149. Email: wjohns@rsmas.miami.edu

Abstract

The Red Sea outflow exhibits strong seasonal variability in outflow transport due to effects of monsoon winds and seasonal fluctuations in buoyancy forcing. As it descends the continental slope in the western Gulf of Aden, it entrains significantly less-dense near-surface water, which itself varies on seasonal time scales. High-resolution hydrographic and direct velocity data collected during the 2001 Red Sea Outflow Experiment (REDSOX) are used herein to characterize and quantify the pathways of the Red Sea Outflow Water (RSOW) and the associated entrainment of Gulf of Aden Water. The outflow transport exhibits a maximum in winter of about 0.29 Sv (Sv ≡ 106 m3 s−1) at the exit of the Bab-el-Mandeb and approximately doubles to 0.56 Sv as it descends into the Gulf of Aden and entrains ambient water. In summer, the outflow is much weaker, reaching about 0.06 Sv at the strait and about 0.18 Sv downstream. The outflow plume divides into three distinct branches in winter, consisting of descending branches along two bathymetrically confined channels (the “Northern” and “Southern” channels, respectively), and an adjusted intrusion layer at shallower depths in the water column. Estimates of transport of “pure” Red Sea Outflow Water through salt flux conservation show the general partitioning of the outflow between the individual plumes, where the Northern Channel (NC) accounts for 52% of Red Sea Outflow Water, the Southern Channel (SC) carries 31%, and the intrusion layer (IL) the remaining 17%. The results also indicate that the transport of Red Sea Outflow Water is subject to considerable synoptic temporal variability that is unresolved by the present study.

Corresponding author address: Dr. William E. Johns, Division of Meteorology and Physical Oceanography, Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, University of Miami, 4600 Rickenbacker Causeway, Miami, FL 33149. Email: wjohns@rsmas.miami.edu

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