Articles | Volume 7, issue 1
Ocean Sci., 7, 91–99, 2011
Ocean Sci., 7, 91–99, 2011

Research article 28 Jan 2011

Research article | 28 Jan 2011

Tracers confirm downward mixing of Tyrrhenian Sea upper waters associated with the Eastern Mediterranean Transient

W. Roether1 and J. E. Lupton2 W. Roether and J. E. Lupton
  • 1Institut für Umweltphysik, Univ. Bremen, Bremen, Germany
  • 2NOAA Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory, Newport, OR 97365, USA

Abstract. Observations of tritium and 3He in the Tyrrhenian Sea, 1987–2009, confirm the enhanced vertical mixing of intermediate waters into the deep waters that has been noted and associated with the Eastern Mediterranean Transient in previous studies. Our evidence for the mixing rests on increasing tracer concentrations in the Tyrrhenian deep waters, accompanied by decreases in the upper waters, which are supplied from the Eastern Mediterranean. The downward transfer is particularly evident between 1987 and 1997. Later on, information partly rests on increasing tritium-3He ages; here we correct the observed 3He for contributions released from the ocean floor. The Tyrrhenian tracer distributions are fully compatible with data upstream of the Sicily Strait and in the Western Mediterranean. The tracer data show that mixing reached to the bottom and confirm a cyclonic nature of the deep water circulation in the Tyrrhenian. They furthermore indicate that horizontal homogenization of the deep waters occurs on a time scale of roughly 5 years. Various features point to a reduced impact of Western Mediterranean Deep Water (WMDW) in the Tyrrhenian during the enhanced-mixing period. This is an important finding because it implies less upward mixing of WMDW, which has been named a major process to enable the WMDW to leave the Mediterranean via the Gibraltar Strait. On the other hand, the TDW outflow for several years represented a major influx of enhanced salinity and density waters into the deep-water range of the Western Mediterranean.