Articles | Volume 7, issue 4
Ocean Sci., 7, 503–519, 2011

Special issue: ECOOP (European Coastal-shelf sea Operational Observing and...

Ocean Sci., 7, 503–519, 2011

Research article 22 Aug 2011

Research article | 22 Aug 2011

Numerical simulation and decomposition of kinetic energy in the Central Mediterranean: insight on mesoscale circulation and energy conversion

R. Sorgente1, A. Olita1, P. Oddo2, L. Fazioli1, and A. Ribotti1 R. Sorgente et al.
  • 1IAMC, Istituto per l'Ambiente Marino Costiero – Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche, Oristano, Italy
  • 2INGV, Istituto Nazionale di Geofisica e Vulcanologia, Bologna, Italy

Abstract. The spatial and temporal variability of eddy and mean kinetic energy of the Central Mediterranean region has been investigated, from January 2008 to December 2010, by mean of a numerical simulation mainly to quantify the mesoscale dynamics and their relationships with physical forcing. In order to understand the energy redistribution processes, the baroclinic energy conversion has been analysed, suggesting hypotheses about the drivers of the mesoscale activity in this area. The ocean model used is based on the Princeton Ocean Model implemented at 1/32° horizontal resolution. Surface momentum and buoyancy fluxes are interactively computed by mean of standard bulk formulae using predicted model Sea Surface Temperature and atmospheric variables provided by the European Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecast operational analyses. At its lateral boundaries the model is one-way nested within the Mediterranean Forecasting System operational products.

The model domain has been subdivided in four sub-regions: Sardinia channel and southern Tyrrhenian Sea, Sicily channel, eastern Tunisian shelf and Libyan Sea. Temporal evolution of eddy and mean kinetic energy has been analysed, on each of the four sub-regions, showing different behaviours. On annual scales and within the first 5 m depth, the eddy kinetic energy represents approximately the 60 % of the total kinetic energy over the whole domain, confirming the strong mesoscale nature of the surface current flows in this area. The analyses show that the model well reproduces the path and the temporal behaviour of the main known sub-basin circulation features. New mesoscale structures have been also identified, from numerical results and direct observations, for the first time as the Pantelleria Vortex and the Medina Gyre.

The classical kinetic energy decomposition (eddy and mean) allowed to depict and to quantify the permanent and fluctuating parts of the circulation in the region, and to differentiate the four sub-regions as function of relative and absolute strength of the mesoscale activity. Furthermore the Baroclinic Energy Conversion term shows that in the Sardinia Channel the mesoscale activity, due to baroclinic instabilities, is significantly larger than in the other sub-regions, while a negative sign of the energy conversion, meaning a transfer of energy from the Eddy Kinetic Energy to the Eddy Available Potential Energy, has been recorded only for the surface layers of the Sicily Channel during summer.