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Dynamics of the Near-Uniform Basin-Wide Wind-Driven Sea Level Fluctuation of the Mediterranean Sea

Ichiro Fukumori(1) , Dimitris Menemenlis(1) , and Tong Lee(1)

(1) JPL/Caltech, M/S 300-323, Pasadena, CA 91109, United States


Dynamics of the recently identified basin-wide oscillation of the Mediterranean Sea is analyzed using sea level observations from the TOPEX/POSEIDON satellite altimeter and a numerical ocean circulation model.

More than 50% of the large-scale, non-tidal, and non-pressure driven fluctuation of sea level can be attributed to this oscillation that is nearly uniform in phase and amplitude across the entire basin. The oscillation has periods ranging from 20-days to several years and has a magnitude as large as 10 cm. The fluctuation is due to variations in net mass flux through the Strait of Gibraltar driven by winds in the Strait and its vicinity including the Alboran Sea and the Atlantic Ocean immediately to the west of the Strait between the Iberian Peninsula and Africa. The Mediterranean Sea adjusts almost uniformly across the basin with depth independent pressure perturbations.

A dynamic balance is established in the vicinity of the Strait between wind and sea level difference between the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. The amplitude of this basin-wide wind-driven sea level fluctuation is inversely proportional to the Strait's depth but is insensitive to its width. The wind-driven fluctuation is coherent with atmospheric pressure over the basin and contributes to the apparent deviation of the Mediterranean Sea from an inverse barometer response.


Workshop presentation


                 Last modified: 07.10.03