A review of the physical oceanography of the Mediterranean outflow Academic Article uri icon


  • The physical oceanography of the Mediterranean Sea is reviewed with particular emphasis on the Mediterranean outflow in the Gulf of Cadiz. in this region the dense Mediterranean water forms a high velocity bottom current that interacts strongly with the sea floor, The major energy source for the plume comes from the release of potential energy as the plume descends the continental slope, and the major energy sink is work against bottom stress, which is as large as 4 Pa where the plume begins to descend the continental slope. In this region the current makes a nearly inertial turn that would otherwise appear to be steered by the underlying topography. The Mediterranean plume entrains the overlying North Atlantic Central Water and thereby loses much of its density anomaly. The mixed Mediterranean water becomes neutrally buoyant in the lower portion of the North Atlantic thermocline near Cape St. Vincent. There are then two preferred transport modes having somewhat different temperature and salinity whose distinct characteristics can be found far into the open North Atlantic. The temperature, salinity and Volume of the Mediterranean water in the Strait of Gibraltar and in the Gulf of Cadiz appear to be roughly constant since modem measurements have been made. The estimated westward transport of Mediterranean water has gone down considerably as direct measurement techniques have been applied. A recent estimate is that the westward transport of pure Mediterranean water is only about a half a Sv (1 Sv = 10(6) m(3) s(-1)); the transport of mixed Mediterranean water in the western Gulf of Cadiz is larger by about a factor of three or four because of the entrainment of North Atlantic water. (C) 1999 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.

publication date

  • February 1999