Modelling in the Strait of Gibraltar: from Operational Oceanography to Scale Interactions

Izquierdo A., Kagan B. A., Sein D. V., Mikolajewicz U.

We make a review on the modelling efforts devoted to better understand the complex oceanography of the Strait of Gibraltar, where Atlantic waters enter the Mediterranean Sea as a surface flow, and Mediterranean outflowing waters spread into the interior of the North Atlantic forming a prominent basin-scale termohaline anomaly at mid-depths. Besides the mean exchange flows relevant phenomena include tides, high amplitude internal waves, meteorologically forced subinertial oscillations, mixing, and involve a wide-range of spatio-temporal scales. The remarkable progress achieved in understanding and modelling the ocean processes in the Strait of Gibraltar allows now undertaking new societal demands and scientific challenges. One societal demand is given by the increasing need of operational oceanographic information as a support tool for decision-makers in an area considered as one of world’s busiest shipping lanes, with an increased risk of maritime accidents and environmental pollution. We present an Operational Oceanography system for the Strait of Gibraltar responding to that demand. On the other hand, new scientific challenges call for the need of developing perspective-modelling studies accounting for process and scale interactions. Using a global ocean general circulation model with regional high resolution around the Iberian Peninsula we are able to resolve the local-scale at the Strait of Gibraltar and the Gulf of Cádiz while focusing on the basin scale. As a result, we find that tidally-induced local-scale processes in the Strait and in the Gulf of Cádiz appear to have a drastic impact on the distribution of Mediterranean outflow waters in the Atlantic basin.

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