Investigating the Interannual Variability of the Circulation and Water Mass Formation in the Red Sea

Friday, 19 December 2014
Sarantis S Sofianos1, Vassilis P Papadopoulos2, Dimitra Denaxa1 and Yasser Abualnaja3, (1)National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, Athens, Greece, (2)Hellenic Centre for Marine Res, Anavissos, Greece, (3)King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, Thuwal, Saudi Arabia
The interannual variability of the circulation and water mass formation in the Red Sea is investigated with the use of a numerical model and the combination of satellite and in-situ observations. The response of Red Sea to the large-scale variability of atmospheric forcing is studied through a 30-years simulation experiment, using MICOM model. The modeling results demonstrate significant trends and variability that are mainly located in the central and northern parts of the basin. On the other hand, the exchange pattern between the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean at the strait of Bab el Mandeb presents very weak interannual variability. The results verify the regularity of the water mass formation processes in the northern Red Sea but also show significant variability of the circulation and thermohaline conditions in the areas of formation. Enhanced water mass formation conditions are observed during specific years of the simulation (approximately five years apart). Analysis of recent warm and cold events in the northernmost part of the basin, based on a combination of atmospheric reanalysis results and oceanic satellite and in-situ observations, shows the importance of the cyclonic gyre that is prevailing in this part of the basin. This gyre can effectively influence the sea surface temperature (SST) and intensify or mitigate the winter effect of the atmospheric forcing. Upwelling induced by persistent periods of the gyre functioning drops the SST over the northernmost part of the Red Sea and can produce colder than normal winter SST even without extreme atmospheric forcing. These mechanisms are crucial for the formation of intermediate and deep water masses in the Red Sea and the strength of the subsequent thermohaline cells.