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Extreme cooling and dense water formation estimates in open and coastal regions of the Adriatic Sea during the winter of 2012

May 19, 2014

Generation of dense waters in the Adriatic Sea during an extreme cooling event in the winter of 2012, including its preconditioning and spreading phases, have been investigated using the one-way coupled ROMS and the ALADIN/HR modeling system. Both climatological and real river fluxes are used in the simulations. Aside from the ‘convenient’ dense water formation areas located at the northernmost Adriatic shelf, we found that a similar amount of dense water, with  slightly lower density, was formed in the eastern and deeper Adriatic coastal area, which was subjected to extreme heat losses (up to 2000 W/m2) during peak cooling periods. This part of the Adriatic has been known for extreme cooling during wintertime bora outbreaks; nevertheless, no ocean model study has previously reproduced dense water formation in this area. The most likely reason for that was an overestimate of river discharges introduced to ocean models. From newly available data we estimated that the contribution of eastern Adriatic rivers between the Neretva River and Rijeka Bay is more than 6 times lower than what has been previously documented. Transport of dense water towards the middle Adriatic had a peak value of about 0.6 Sv, while the speed of initial bottom density current surpassed 40-50 cm/s, which is several times faster than past events. Different pathways of the dense water towards the middle and south Adriatic depressions have also been documented. The contribution of the eastern coastal Adriatic area to the overall north Adriatic dense water formation has been quantified and discussed for average and low freshwater load conditions, indicating that this part of the Adriatic is a common place for dense water generation.

Janeković I, Mihanović H, Vilibić I, Tudor M, in press: Extreme cooling and dense water formation estimates in open and coastal regions of the Adriatic Sea during the winter of 2012, Journal of Geophysical Research – Oceans, doi:10.1002/2014JC009865. Article (subscription required).

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