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Po River plume pattern variability investigated from model data

November 18, 2013

The Adriatic Sea is a semi-enclosed basin located in the NE part of the Mediterranean Sea and it is strongly influenced by riverine inputs. In its northern sub-basin the freshwater plume of the Po River, together with those of numerous smaller rivers, plays a fundamental role in driving the physical and biogeochemical processes of the whole basin. In this paper we characterize the surface plume structure and identify its patterns and temporal variability on seasonal and inter-annual scales relating it to its major forcings (i.e., river discharges and winds). To perform this analysis, a 3D hydrodynamic numerical model was implemented over the whole Adriatic for the period 2003–2010 and the resulting outputs were analyzed through a series of statistical tools. The inter-annual and seasonal averages of Sea Surface Salinity (SSS) fields show that the average patterns are composed of a coastal plume, wider or narrower depending on the season, that flows southward of the Po River mouths. The first two modes of the Empirical Orthogonal Functions (EOF) analysis show a similar distribution with a cumulative explained variance up to 60%; the third mode, instead, presents a plume shape that extends well into the basin. To obtain a more detailed representation of the plume, a 2×3 Self-Organizing Map (SOM) analysis was performed over the surface salinity fields. Two antithetic patterns were depicted: i) a small plume confined to coastal areas, typical of low discharges and/or Bora wind events and ii) a wider plume that extends into the basin, typical of high river discharges and/or Sirocco winds. The comparison between wind regimes, riverine inputs and the time series of the SOM’s Best Matching Units (BMU) suggested that, on long time scales, river discharges represent the dominant forcing in defining the plume size and surface pattern, while on time scales of few days the plume dynamics are modulated mostly by the wind structure.

Falcieri F M, Carniel S, Sclavo M, Russo A, Benetazzo A, in press. Po River plume pattern variability investigated from model data, Continental Shelf Research, 2013, doi:10.1016/j.csr.2013.11.001. Article.

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