Regional circulation patterns of Mediterranean Outflow Water near the Iberian and African continental slopes

de Pascual-Collar, Álvaro; G. Sotillo, Marcos; Levier, Bruno; Aznar, Roland; Lorente, Pablo; Amo-Baladrón, Arancha; Álvarez-Fanjul, Enrique

The Mediterranean Outflow Water (MOW) is a dense water mass originated in the Strait of Gibraltar. Downstream of the Gulf of Cádiz, the MOW forms a reservoir region west of the Iberian continental slopes at a buoyant depth of approximately 1000 m. This region plays a key role as the main centre where the MOW is mixed and distributed into the North Atlantic. The seafloor in this area is characterized by the presence of a complex bathymetry with three abyssal plains separated by mountain chains. Although the topographic features do not reach the surface, they influence ocean flows at intermediate and deep ocean layers, conditioning the distribution and circulation of MOW.

The Copernicus Marine Environmental Monitoring Service (CMEMS) Iberian–Biscay–Ireland (IBI) ocean reanalysis is used to provide a detailed view of the circulation and mixing processes of MOW near the Iberian and African continental slopes. This work emphasizes the relevance of the complex bathymetric features defining the circulation processes of MOW in this region. The high resolution of the IBI reanalysis allows us to make a description of the mesoscale features forced by the topography. The temperature, salinity, velocity, transport, and vorticity fields are analysed to understand the circulation patterns of MOW. The high-resolution circulation patterns reveal that Horseshoe Basin and the continental slope near Cape Ghir (a.k.a. Cap Rhir or Cabo de Aguer) are key areas controlling the mixing processes of MOW with the surrounding water masses, mainly North Atlantic Central Water (NACW) and Antarctic Intermediate Water (AAIW). The water mass variability is also analysed by means of composite analysis. Results indicate the existence of a variability in the MOW tongue which retracts and expands westwards in opposition to the movement of the underlying North Atlantic Deep Water.

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de Pascual-Collar, Álvaro / G. Sotillo, Marcos / Levier, Bruno / et al: Regional circulation patterns of Mediterranean Outflow Water near the Iberian and African continental slopes. 2019. Copernicus Publications.

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Rechteinhaber: Álvaro de Pascual-Collar et al.

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