Seasonal and inter-annual temperature variability in the bottom waters over the western Black Sea shelf
Abstract. Long-term changes in the state of the Bottom Shelf Water (BSW) on the Western shelf of the Black Sea are assessed using analysis of intra-seasonal and inter-annual temperature variations. For the purpose of this study the BSW is defined as such shelf water mass between the seabed and the upper mixed layer (bounded by the σθ = 14.2 isopycnal) which has limited ability to mix vertically with oxygen-rich surface waters during the warm season due to formation of a seasonal pycnocline. A long-term time series of temperature anomalies in the BSW is constructed from in-situ observations taken over the 2nd half of the 20th century. The BSW is shown to occupy nearly half of the shelf area during the summer stratification period (May–November).The results reveal a warm phase in the 1960s/70s, followed by a cold phase between 1985 and 1995 and a further warming after 1995. The transition between the warm and cold periods coincides with a regime shift in the Black Sea ecosystem. While it was confirmed that the memory of winter convection is well preserved over the following months in the deep sea, the signal of winter cooling in the BSW significantly reduces during the warm season. The potential of the BSW to ventilate horizontally during the warm season with the deep-sea waters is assessed using isopycnic analysis of temperature variations. It is shown that temperature in the BSW is stronger correlated with the temperature of Cold Intermediate Waters (CIW) in the deep sea than with the severity of the previous winters, thus indicating that the isopycnal exchanges with the deep sea are more important for inter-annual/inter-decadal variability of the BSW on the western Black Sea shelf than effects of winter convection on the shelf itself.