Articles | Volume 8, issue 4
Research article
13 Aug 2012
Research article |  | 13 Aug 2012

Variability of synoptic-scale quasi-stationary thermohaline stratification patterns in the Gulf of Finland in summer 2009

T. Liblik and U. Lips

Abstract. We present and analyze high-resolution observational data of thermohaline structure and currents acquired in the Gulf of Finland (Baltic Sea), using an autonomous buoy profiler and bottom-mounted acoustic Doppler current profiler during July–August 2009. Vertical profiles of temperature and salinity were measured in the upper 50-m layer with a 3 h time resolution, and vertical profiles of current velocity and direction were recorded with a 10 min time resolution. Although large temporal variations of vertical temperature and salinity distributions were revealed, it was possible to define several periods with quasi-stationary vertical thermohaline structure. These quasi-stationary stratification patterns persisted for 4–15 days and were dominated by certain physical processes: upwelling, relaxation of upwelling, estuarine circulation and its wind-induced reversal, and downwelling. Vertical profiles of current velocities supported the concept of synoptic-scale, quasi-stationary periods of hydrophysical fields, characterized by distinct layered flow structures and current oscillations. To estimate the contribution of different processes to the changes in stratification, a simple conceptual model was developed. The model accounts for heat flux through the sea surface, wind mixing, wind-induced transport (parallel to the horizontal salinity gradient) in the upper layer, and estuarine circulation. It reproduced observed changes in vertical stratification reasonably well. The largest discrepancies between observations and model results were found when water motions across the Gulf and associated vertical displacements of isopycnals (upwelling or downwelling) were dominant processes.