Articles | Volume 6, issue 1
09 Feb 2010
 | 09 Feb 2010

Surface expression of Mediterranean Water dipoles and their contribution to the shelf/slope – open ocean exchange

N. Serra, I. Ambar, and D. Boutov

Abstract. The generation of dipolar eddies within the Mediterranean Water (MW) layers, at the Portuguese continental slope, was observed using subsurface RAFOS floats. The surface expression of these mid-depth dipoles is here characterized with remote sensing data, namely with sea surface temperature, chlorophyll concentration and sea surface height measurements. Two cases are presented demonstrating the remote detection of these underwater structures in the Gulf of Cadiz during 1998 and 2001. The presence of subsurface MW dipoles in the Iberian coastal zone is shown to influence the development of coastal upwelling filaments. The surface circulation induced by the dipoles causes the upwelling filaments to extend offshorewards and thus to enhance the transport of physical, chemical and biological properties into the open ocean. A numerical model simulation of the ocean circulation around the Iberian Peninsula forced by heat and freshwater fluxes (computed using the NCEP reanalysis atmospheric state) and by the overflow of MW at the Strait of Gibraltar, corroborates the connection between the surface and the mid-depth flows. The high-resolution numerical experiment is used to help clarifying the occurrence of the MW dipoles surface expression and the impact of these dipoles on the eddy kinetic energy of the upper ocean and on the exchange of volume and salt between the shelf/slope and the open ocean.