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

Seasonality of intermediate waters hydrography west of the Iberian Peninsula from an 8 yr semiannual time series of an oceanographic section

E. Prieto, C. González-Pola, A. Lavín, R. F. Sánchez, and M. Ruiz-Villarreal

Abstract. Seasonality of hydrographical properties at depth in the western Iberian margin (eastern North Atlantic) is analysed from a 2003–2010 time series of a semiannual oceanographic section extending ∼200 nm off Cape Finisterre (43° N). All water masses down to the permanent thermocline (2000 dbar) show a consistent seasonal signature in their thermohaline properties and there is a notable asymmetry between the slope region and the outer ocean (in the surroundings of the Galicia Bank). There is overall cooling and freshening of eastern North Atlantic central waters in summertime, which is larger and deeper-reaching on the slope. In summertime, Mediterranean Water (MW) gets tightly attached against the slope and is uplifted, reinforcing its thermohaline signature and diminishing its presence at the outer ocean. In wintertime the situation reverses, MW seems to detach from the slope and spreads out to the open ocean, even being observed a secondary branch around the Galicia Bank. Thermohaline seasonality at depth shows values up to 0.4 °C and 0.08 in salinity at the lower MW, of the order of 20% of the overall interannual variability observed during the whole period. Decomposition of thermohaline changes at isobaric levels to changes along isoneutral surfaces and changes due to vertical displacements help analyse the physical processes behind the observed seasonality in terms of (1) the large-scale seasonality of the subtropical gyre in response to the seasonal migration of the subtropical high pressure system and subsequent anomalies in Ekman transport and wind stress curl, (2) the continental slope dynamics, characterized by summer upwelling, winter development of the Iberian Poleward Current and Mediterranean water spreading, and (3) the possible influence of seasonal changes of water mass properties at their formation sources.