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Features of dominant mesoscale variability, circulation patterns and dynamics in the Strait of Sicily

Lermusiaux, P.F.J. and A.R. Robinson, 2001. Features of dominant mesoscale variability, circulation patterns and dynamics in the Strait of Sicily. Deep Sea Research. 48, (9), 1953-1997.

Combining an intensive hydrographic data survey with a numerical primitive equation model by data assimilation, the main features of dominant mesoscale to subbasin-scale variability in the Strait of Sicily (Mediterranean Sea) during the summer of 1996 are estimated, revealed and described, and several hydrographic and dynamical properties of the #ow and variabilities discussed. The feature identi”cation is based on two independent real-time analyses of the variability. One analysis `subjectivelya evaluates and studies physical “eld forecasts and their variations. The other more `objectivelya estimates and forecasts the principal components of the variability. The two independent analyses are found to be in agreement and complementary. The dominant dynamical variations are revealed to be associated with “ve features: the Adventure Bank Vortex, Maltese Channel Crest, Ionian Shelfbreak Vortex, Messina Rise Vortex, and temperature and salinity fronts of the Ionian slope. These features and their variations are found to have links with the meanders of the Atlantic Ionian Stream. For each feature, the characteristic physical scales, and their deviations, are quanti”ed. The predominant circulation patterns, pathways and transformations of the modi”ed Atlantic water, Ionian water and modi”ed Levantine intermediate water, are then identi”ed and discussed. For each of these water masses, the ranges of temperature, salinity, depth, velocity and residence times, and the regional variations of these ranges, are computed. Based on the estimated “elds and variability principal components, several properties of the dynamics in the Strait are discussed. These include: general characteristics of the mesoscale anomalies; bifurcations of the Atlantic Ionian Stream; respective roles of topography, atmospheric forcings and internal dynamics; factors controlling (strengthening or weakening) the vortices identi”ed; interactions of the Messina Rise and Ionian Shelfbreak vortices; and, mesoscale dynamics and relatively complex features along the Ionian slope. For evaluation and validation of the results obtained, in situ data, satellite sea surface temperature images and trajectories of surface drifters are employed, as well as comparisons with previous studies.