Salinity in the Sicily Channel corroborates the role of the Adriatic–Ionian Bimodal Oscillating System (BiOS) in shaping the decadal variability of the Mediterranean overturning circulation
Previous studies have demonstrated that the salinity in the Levantine basin depends on the intensity of the Atlantic water (AW) inflow. Moreover, its spreading eastward (to the Levantine basin) or northward (to the Ionian Sea) is determined by the Ionian circulation pattern, i.e. by the Adriatic–Ionian Bimodal Oscillating System (BiOS) mechanism. The aim of this paper is to relate salinity variations in the Levantine basin to the salt content variability in the core of the Levantine Intermediate Water (LIW) passing through the Sicily Channel (SC) and its possible impact on the Western Mediterranean Transition – WMT (i.e. the sudden salinity and temperature increase in the deep layer of the Algero-Provençal subbasin occurring since 2004). From the historical data set MEDAR/MEDATLAS in the Levantine and northern Ionian, we present evidence of decadal occurrences of extreme salinities associated with the varying influx of AW over the last 60 yr. Furthermore, we show that the salinity variations in the two subbasins are out of phase. High-salinity episodes in the Levantine are a pre-conditioning for the potential occurrence of the events like the Eastern Mediterranean Transient (EMT). Cross-correlation between the salinity time series in the Levantine basin and in the SC suggests that the travel time of the LIW is between 10 and 13 yr. Comparing the timing of the salinity increase associated with the WMT and the salinity in the LIW core in the SC, we estimate that the total time interval needed for the signal propagating from the Levantine to reach the deep mixed layers of the Algero-Provençal subbasin is about 25 yr. We also showed that the extra salt input from the eastern Mediterranean contribute up to about 60% to the salt content increase in the bottom layer of the western Mediterranean.