(a) Location of the study area (red square) (b) Three-dimensional perspective of the bathymetry in the study area :: Image: Authors

S. Piñeiro, C. González‐Pola, J. M. Fernández‐Díaz, A. C. Naveira‐Garabato, R. Sánchez‐Leal, P. Puig, J. Salat, R. Balbin, 2021. Persistent, Depth-Intensified Mixing During The Western Mediterranean Transition's Initial Stages. Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans, 126, e2020JC016535.

Abstract: Major deep‐convection activity in the northwestern Mediterranean during winter 2005 triggered the formation of a complex anomalous deep‐water structure that substantially modified the properties of the Western Mediterranean deep layers. Since then, evolution of this thermohaline structure, the so‐called Western Mediterranean Transition (WMT), has been traced through a regularly sampled hydrographic deep station located on the outer continental slope of Minorca Island. A rapid erosion of the WMT's near‐bottom thermohaline signal was observed during 2005–2007. The plausible interpretation of this as local bottom‐intensified mixing motivates this study. Here, the evolution of the WMT structure through 2005–2007 is reproduced by means of a one‐dimensional diffusion model including double‐diffusive mixing that allows vertical variation of the background mixing coefficient and includes a source term to represent the lateral advection of deep‐water injections from the convection area. Using an optimization algorithm, a best guess for the depth‐dependent background mixing coefficient is obtained for the study period. WMT evolution during its initial stages is satisfactorily reproduced using this simple conceptual model, indicating that strong depth‐intensified mixing (K ∞ (z) ≈ 22 × 10−4 m2 s−1; z ⪆ 1,400 dbar) is a valid explanation for the observations. Extensive hydrographic and current observations gathered over the continental slope of Minorca during winter 2018, the first deep‐convective winter intensively sampled in the region, provide evidence of topographically localized enhanced mixing concurrent with newly formed dense waters flowing along‐slope toward the Algerian sub‐basin. This transport‐related boundary mixing mechanism is suggested to be a plausible source of the water‐mass transformations observed during the initial stages of the WMT off Minorca.

Keywords: deep waters, temperature, salinity, Western Mediterranean, anomaly, numerical model