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Origin and pathways of winter intermediate water in the Northwestern Mediterranean sea using observations and numerical simulation

November 18, 2013

The study of water masses worldwide (their formation, spreading, mixing and impact on general circulation) is essential for a better understanding of the ocean circulation and variability. In this paper, the formation and main pathways of Winter Intermediate Water (WIW) in the Northwestern Mediterranean Sea (NWMED) are investigated during the winter spring 2011 using observations and numerical simulation. The main results show that the WIW, formed along the continental shelves of the Gulf of Lion and Balearic Sea, circulates southward following five preferential pathways depending on the WIW formation site location and the oceanic conditions.WIW joins the northeastern part of the Balearic Sea, or flows along the continental shelves until joining the Balearic Current (maximum of 0.33Sv in early-April) or further south until the Ibiza Channel entrance. Two additional trajectories, contributing to water mass exchanges with the southern part of the Western Mediterranean Sea, bring the WIW through the Ibiza and Mallorca Channels (maxima of 0.26Sv in late-March and 0.1Sv in early-April, respectively). The circulation of WIW over the NWMED at 50–200m depth, its mixing and spreading over the Western Mediterranean Sea (reaching the south of the Balearic Islands, the Algero-Provencal basin, the Ligurian and the Alboran Seas) suggest that the WIW may have an impact on the ocean circulation by eddy blocking effect, exchange of water masses between north and south sub-basins of Western Mediterranean Sea through the Ibiza Channel or modification of the ocean stratification.

Juza M, Renalut L, Ruiz S, Tintoré J, in press. Origin and pathways of winter intermediate water in the Northwestern Mediterranean sea using observations and numerical simulation, Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans, 2013, doi:10.1002/2013JC009231. Article.

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