Articles | Volume 9, issue 2
Research article
03 Apr 2013
Research article |  | 03 Apr 2013

Variability in the air–sea interaction patterns and timescales within the south-eastern Bay of Biscay, as observed by HF radar data

A. Fontán, G. Esnaola, J. Sáenz, and M. González

Abstract. Two high-frequency (HF) radar stations were installed on the coast of the south-eastern Bay of Biscay in 2009, providing high spatial and temporal resolution and large spatial coverage of currents in the area for the first time. This has made it possible to quantitatively assess the air–sea interaction patterns and timescales for the period 2009–2010. The analysis was conducted using the Barnett–Preisendorfer approach to canonical correlation analysis (CCA) of reanalysis surface winds and HF radar-derived surface currents. The CCA yields two canonical patterns: the first wind–current interaction pattern corresponds to the classical Ekman drift at the sea surface, whilst the second describes an anticyclonic/cyclonic surface circulation. The results obtained demonstrate that local winds play an important role in driving the upper water circulation. The wind–current interaction timescales are mainly related to diurnal breezes and synoptic variability. In particular, the breezes force diurnal currents in waters of the continental shelf and slope of the south-eastern Bay. It is concluded that the breezes may force diurnal currents over considerably wider areas than that covered by the HF radar, considering that the northern and southern continental shelves of the Bay exhibit stronger diurnal than annual wind amplitudes.