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Seasonal Variability of the Tyrrhenian Sea Surface Geostrophic Circulation as Assessed by Altimeter Data

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  • 1 ENEA, C. R. Casaccia, Rome, Italy
  • | 2 CNR-ISMAR, La Spezia, Italy
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Abstract

New insights into the structure and variability of the Tyrrhenian Sea's surface circulation are obtained through the analysis of a very long series of altimetric observations (1993–2010). In late winter and part of spring, a consistent mean flow is individuated in the eastern Tyrrhenian Sea, formed by a stream of Atlantic water that meanders around four anticyclonic structures located along the Italian coast, which have smaller cyclonic companions offshore. The signatures of these vortices are also found in images of chlorophyll and sea surface temperature, as well as in modeling results, both from a high-resolution operational model of the Tyrrhenian Sea's circulation and from a dedicated numerical simulation. Analysis of the energy exchange between eddies and mean flow, together with numerical evidence, suggests that this winter–spring circulation pattern may result from basin-scale instability of the Atlantic stream. In summer, the dynamic is dominated by a well-known dipole located to the east of the Bonifacio Strait. However, in the eastern part of the basin, an anticyclonic cell is also found, probably driven by the negative wind stress curl present in summer in this region. The cell encompasses two anticyclonic vortices located in the areas of the Vavilov and Marsili Seamounts. A multichannel singular spectral analysis of the altimetric time series reveals that, besides the expected, dominant seasonal mode, a significant low-frequency mode of variability is also present. This mode has a period of about six years and is mostly localized in the western part of the basin.

Corresponding author address: R. Iacono, ENEA, C. R. Casaccia, Via Anguillarese 301, 00123 Rome, Italy. E-mail: roberto.iacono@enea.it

Abstract

New insights into the structure and variability of the Tyrrhenian Sea's surface circulation are obtained through the analysis of a very long series of altimetric observations (1993–2010). In late winter and part of spring, a consistent mean flow is individuated in the eastern Tyrrhenian Sea, formed by a stream of Atlantic water that meanders around four anticyclonic structures located along the Italian coast, which have smaller cyclonic companions offshore. The signatures of these vortices are also found in images of chlorophyll and sea surface temperature, as well as in modeling results, both from a high-resolution operational model of the Tyrrhenian Sea's circulation and from a dedicated numerical simulation. Analysis of the energy exchange between eddies and mean flow, together with numerical evidence, suggests that this winter–spring circulation pattern may result from basin-scale instability of the Atlantic stream. In summer, the dynamic is dominated by a well-known dipole located to the east of the Bonifacio Strait. However, in the eastern part of the basin, an anticyclonic cell is also found, probably driven by the negative wind stress curl present in summer in this region. The cell encompasses two anticyclonic vortices located in the areas of the Vavilov and Marsili Seamounts. A multichannel singular spectral analysis of the altimetric time series reveals that, besides the expected, dominant seasonal mode, a significant low-frequency mode of variability is also present. This mode has a period of about six years and is mostly localized in the western part of the basin.

Corresponding author address: R. Iacono, ENEA, C. R. Casaccia, Via Anguillarese 301, 00123 Rome, Italy. E-mail: roberto.iacono@enea.it
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