Articles | Volume 10, issue 1
Research article
27 Jan 2014
Research article |  | 27 Jan 2014

Changes in ventilation of the Mediterranean Sea during the past 25 year

A. Schneider, T. Tanhua, W. Roether, and R. Steinfeldt

Abstract. Significant changes in the overturning circulation of the Mediterranean Sea has been observed during the last few decades, the most prominent phenomena being the Eastern Mediterranean Transient (EMT) in the early 1990s and the Western Mediterranean Transition (WMT) during the mid-2000s. During both of these events unusually large amounts of deep water were formed, and in the case of the EMT, the deep water formation area shifted from the Adriatic to the Aegean Sea. Here we synthesize a unique collection of transient tracer (CFC-12, SF6 and tritium) data from nine cruises conducted between 1987 and 2011 and use these data to determine temporal variability of Mediterranean ventilation. We also discuss biases and technical problems with transient tracer-based ages arising from their different input histories over time; particularly in the case of time-dependent ventilation.

We observe a period of low ventilation in the deep eastern (Levantine) basin after it was ventilated by the EMT so that the age of the deep water is increasing with time. In the Ionian Sea, on the other hand, we see evidence of increased ventilation after year 2001, indicating the restarted deep water formation in the Adriatic Sea. This is also reflected in the increasing age of the Cretan Sea deep water and decreasing age of Adriatic Sea deep water since the end of the 1980s. In the western Mediterranean deep basin we see the massive input of recently ventilated waters during the WMT. This signal is not yet apparent in the Tyrrhenian Sea, where the ventilation seems to be fairly constant since the EMT. Also the western Alboran Sea does not show any temporal trends in ventilation.