Water exchange between the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea through the Kerch Strait

Zavialov, Ivan; Osadchiev, Alexander; Sedakov, Roman; Barnier, Bernard; Molines, Jean-Marc; Belokopytov, Vladimir

The Sea of Azov is a small, shallow, and freshened sea that receives a large freshwater discharge. Under certain external forcing conditions low-salinity waters from the Sea of Azov flow into the north-eastern part of the Black Sea through the narrow Kerch Strait and form a surface-advected buoyant plume. Water flow in the Kerch Strait also regularly occurs in the opposite direction, which results in the spreading of a bottom-advected plume of saline and dense waters from the Black Sea into the Sea of Azov. In this study we focus on the physical mechanisms that govern water exchange through the Kerch Strait and analyse the dependence of its direction and intensity on external forcing conditions. Analysis of satellite imagery, wind data, and numerical modelling shows that water exchange in the Kerch Strait is governed by a wind-induced barotropic pressure gradient. Water flow through the shallow and narrow Kerch Strait is a one-way process for the majority of the time. Outflow from the Sea of Azov to the Black Sea is induced by moderate and strong north-easterly winds, while flow into the Sea of Azov from the Black Sea occurs during wind relaxation periods. The direction and intensity of water exchange have wind-governed synoptic and seasonal variability, and they do not depend on the rate of river discharge to the Sea of Azov on an intra-annual timescale. The analysed data reveal dependencies between wind forcing conditions and spatial characteristics of the buoyant plume formed by the outflow from the Sea of Azov.

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Zavialov, Ivan / Osadchiev, Alexander / Sedakov, Roman / et al: Water exchange between the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea through the Kerch Strait. 2020. Copernicus Publications.

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