Articles | Volume 13, issue 6
Research article
22 Dec 2017
Research article |  | 22 Dec 2017

Modelling deep-water formation in the north-west Mediterranean Sea with a new air–sea coupled model: sensitivity to turbulent flux parameterizations

Léo Seyfried, Patrick Marsaleix, Evelyne Richard, and Claude Estournel

Abstract. In the north-western Mediterranean, the strong, dry, cold winds, the Tramontane and Mistral, produce intense heat and moisture exchange at the interface between the ocean and the atmosphere leading to the formation of deep dense waters, a process that occurs only in certain regions of the world. The purpose of this study is to demonstrate the ability of a new coupled ocean–atmosphere modelling system based on MESONH-SURFEX-SYMPHONIE to simulate a deep-water formation event in real conditions. The study focuses on summer 2012 to spring 2013, a favourable period that is well documented by previous studies and for which many observations are available. Model results are assessed through detailed comparisons with different observation data sets, including measurements from buoys, moorings and floats. The good overall agreement between observations and model results shows that the new coupled system satisfactorily simulates the formation of deep dense water and can be used with confidence to study ocean–atmosphere coupling in the north-western Mediterranean. In addition, to evaluate the uncertainty associated with the representation of turbulent fluxes in strong wind conditions, several simulations were carried out based on different parameterizations of the flux bulk formulas. The results point out that the choice of turbulent flux parameterization strongly influences the simulation of the deep-water convection and can modify the volume of the newly formed deep water by a factor of 2.