04 Jan 2022

04 Jan 2022

Review status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal OS.

Quasi-steady circulation regimes in the Baltic Sea

Taavi Liblik, Germo Väli, Kai Salm, Jaan Laanemets, Madis-Jaak Lilover, and Urmas Lips Taavi Liblik et al.
  • Department of Marine Systems, Tallinn University of Technology, Tallinn, Estonia

Abstract. Circulation plays an essential role in the creation of physical and biogeochemical fluxes in the Baltic Sea. The main aim of the work was to study the quasi-steady circulation patterns under prevailing forcing conditions.

Six months of continuous vertical profiling and fixed-point measurements of currents, two monthly underwater glider surveys, and numerical modelling were applied in the central Baltic Sea. The vertical structure of currents was strongly linked to the location of the two pycnoclines: the seasonal thermocline and the halocline. The vertical movements of pycnoclines and velocity shear maxima were synchronous. The quasi-steady circulation patterns were in geostrophic balance and high-persistent. The persistent patterns included circulation features such as upwelling, downwelling, boundary current, and sub-halocline gravity current. The patterns had a prevailing zonal scale of 5–60 km and considerably higher magnitude and different direction than the long-term mean circulation pattern.

Northward (southward) geostrophic boundary current in the upper layer was observed along the eastern coast of the central Baltic in the case of southwesterly (northerly) wind. The geostrophic current at the boundary was often a consequence of wind-driven, across-shore advection.

The sub-halocline quasi-permanent gravity current with a width of 10–30 km from the Gotland Deep to the north over the narrow sill separating the Farö Deep and Northern Deep was detected in the simulation, and it was confirmed by an Argo float trajectory. According to the simulation, a strong flow, mostly to the north, with a zonal scale of 5 km occurred at the sill. This current is an important deeper limb of the overturning circulation of the Baltic Sea. The current is stronger with northerly winds and restricted by the southwesterly winds.

The circulation regime has an annual cycle due to seasonality in the forcing. Boundary currents are stronger and more frequently northward during the winter period. The sub-halocline current towards the north is strongest in March–May and weakest in November–December.

Taavi Liblik et al.

Status: open (until 01 Mar 2022)

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Taavi Liblik et al.

Taavi Liblik et al.


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Short summary
Extensive measurement campaign and numerical simulation were conducted in the central Baltic Sea. The persistent circulation patterns were detected in a steady weather conditions. The patterns included various circulation features. A coastal boundary current was observed along the eastern coast. The deep layer current towards the north was detected as well. This current is an important deeper limb of the overturning circulation of the Baltic Sea. The circulation regime has an annual cycle.