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Hermann Fohrmann
,
Jan O. Backhaus
,
Frank Blaume
, and
Jan Rumohr

Abstract

In the present paper a hydrostatic “reduced gravity” model, generally used to simulate transient bottom-arrested gravity plumes, was coupled with a sediment transport model. The coupled model considers the respective contribution of suspended sediment particles on the buoyancy of a plume and allows one to simulate autosuspension and size-differential deposition of sediments based on the local turbulence and settling velocities. Simulations using the coupled model reveal that sediment-enriched plumes are able to inject both entrained and original shelf water masses into intermediate and bottom layers of an adjacent ocean basin in an ageostrophic dynamical balance. Hence the mechanism described here is more rapid than classic, “seawater” plumes, which are solely driven by surplus density of the water masses. Results suggest that “turbidity” plumes may constitute an important process in the formation and renewal of deep waters in the Arctic Ocean. In case a turbidity plume reaches its level of equilibrium density, deposition of suspended particles causes the density of the interstitial fluid to be lower than the density of the ambient fluid. This initiates upward convection within the water column.

The substantial difference between TS- and turbidity plumes is described by model experiments that utilize idealized slope and sediment distributions. A realistic simulation of a turbidity plume cascading down the continental slope of the western Barents Sea is presented. The computed distribution of deposited sediments agrees well with observations in an area of high accumulation of shelf-derived sediments. The frequency of occurrence of sediment-enriched gravity plumes originating from the Barents Sea shelf is estimated from the various geological variables (thickness of sediments at the bottom, grain size composition) measured from bottom sediments samples.

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Peter Brandt
,
Angelo Rubino
,
Werner Alpers
, and
Jan O. Backhaus

Abstract

A new numerical two-layer model is presented, which describes the generation of internal tidal bores and their disintegration into internal solitary waves in the Strait of Messina. This model is used to explain observations made by the synthetic aperture radar (SAR) from the European Remote Sensing satellites ERS 1 and ERS 2. The analysis of available ERS 1/2 SAR data of the Strait of Messina and adjacent sea areas show that 1) northward as well as southward propagating internal waves are generated in the Strait of Messina, 2) southward propagating internal waves are observed more frequently than northward propagating internal waves, 3) sea surface manifestations of southward as well as northward propagating internal waves are stronger during periods where a strong seasonal thermocline is known to be present, 4) southward propagating internal bores are released from the sill between 1 and 5 hours after maximum northward tidal flow and northward propagating internal bores are released between 2 and 6 hours after maximum southward tidal flow, and 5) the spatial separation between the first two internal solitary waves of southward propagating wave trains is smaller in the period from July to September than in the period from October to June.

The numerical two-layer model is a composite of two models consisting of 1) a hydrostatic “generation model,” which describes the dynamics of the water masses in the region close to the strait’s sill, where internal bores are generated, and 2) a weakly nonhydrostatic “propagation model,” which describes the dynamics of the water masses outside of the sill region where internal bores may disintegrate into internal solitary waves. Due to a technique for movable lateral boundaries, the generation model is capable of simulating the dynamics of a lower layer that may intersect the bottom topography. The proposed generation–propagation model depends on one space variable only, but it retains several features of a fully three-dimensional model by including a realistic channel depth and a realistic channel width. It is driven by semidiurnal tidal oscillations of the sea level at the two open boundaries of the model domain.

Numerical simulations elucidate several observed characteristics of the internal wave field in the Strait of Messina, such as north–south asymmetry, times of release of the internal bores from the strait’s sill, propagation speeds, and spatial separations between the first two solitary waves of internal wave trains.

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Peter Brandt
,
Angelo Rubino
,
Dmitry V. Sein
,
Burkard Baschek
,
Alfredo Izquierdo
, and
Jan O. Backhaus

Abstract

Aspects of the sea level changes in the western Mediterranean Sea are investigated using a numerical tidal model of the Strait of Gibraltar. As a prerequisite, the performance of this model, that is, a two-dimensional, nonlinear, two-layer, boundary-fitted coordinate numerical model based on the hydrostatic approximation on an f plane, is assessed in the simulation of mean and tidal circulation of the Strait of Gibraltar. The model is forced by imposing mean interface and surface displacements as well as M 2, S 2, O 1, and K 1 tidal components along the Atlantic and Mediterranean model open boundaries. Model results are compared with observations and with results obtained from a tidal inverse model for the eastern entrance of the Strait of Gibraltar. In general, good agreement is found. A sensitivity study performed by varying different model parameters shows that the model behaves reasonably well in the simulation of the averaged circulation. The model is then used to investigate the climatological sensitivity of the simulated dynamics in the Strait of Gibraltar to changes in the density difference between Atlantic and Mediterranean waters. For this purpose, given a certain density difference between Atlantic and Mediterranean waters, the authors iteratively searched for that sea level drop between the Atlantic and the Mediterranean that fulfills the mass balance of the Mediterranean. It is found that an increase of the density difference leads to an increase of the exchange flow and to an increase of the sea level drop between the two basins. A trend in the sea level drop of O(1 cm yr−1), such as the one observed between 1994 and 1997, is explained by the model as the result of a trend of O(10−4 yr−1) in the relative density difference between the Mediterranean and Atlantic waters. The observed north–south asymmetry in this trend is also captured by the model, and it is found to arise from changes in the along-strait velocity. Results suggest that the dynamics within the Strait of Gibraltar cannot be neglected when sea level changes in the western Mediterranean basin are investigated.

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