|Barotropic eastward currents in the western Gulf of Lion, north-western Mediterranean Sea, during stratified conditions |
Auteur(s): Petrenko A., Dufau C., Estournel C.
(Article) Publié: Journal Of Marine Systems, vol. 74 p.406-428 (2008)
The circulation of the Gulf of Lion, a large continental shelf north of the western basin of the Mediterranean Sea, is complex and highly variable. During stratified conditions, unexpected barotropic eastward currents can be detected, mostly in the western part of the gulf Care is given to retrieve inertial oscillations when necessary. The primitive-equation free-surface model Symphonie is used to investigate the processes which can generate and influence these eastward currents. Three main wind forcing create these barotropic eastward currents: northwesterlies channelled in the western part of the gulf, northwesterlies and north winds both homogeneous throughout the gulf In the first case, the wind stress curl of the channeled northwesterlies generates an elongated cyclonic circulation in the western part of the Gulf of Lion. The southern part of this cyclonic circulation is a barotropic eastward current, detected west of longitude 4.5 degrees E. In the second case, a homogeneous northwesterly wind creates an intrusion of the along-slope geostrophic current on the shelf, generating a strong coastal jet going northward above Cap Creus. In stratified conditions, intrusion at this western end of the continental shelf only occurs during this type of wind forcing. The coastal jet goes north then detaches itself from the coast and goes eastward, north of the 100 m isobath. In the third case, a homogeneous north wind creates an eastward current which occupies the whole shelf north of latitude 43 degrees N. The first two cases are studied in more details since cruise data corroborate the model simulations. The striking characteristic of these eastward currents is that they are barotropic despite the stratified conditions. Otherwise, their amplitude and exact locations are slightly different for the different cases of circulation. These eastward currents probably have an impact on the residence time of water masses in the Gulf of Lion, and hence on the total water budget of the gulf, as well as on primary production and biogeochemical fluxes. (C) 2008 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.