Articles | Volume 19, issue 2
28 Feb 2001
 | 28 Feb 2001

Modelling the impact of atmospheric and terrestrial inputs on the Black Sea coastal dynamics

V. H. Kourafalou and E. V. Stanev

Abstract. The dynamics on the North Western Shelf area of the Black Sea are examined, with an emphasis on the circulation induced by buoyancy due to the land drained fresh waters and by the interaction with the atmosphere, notably wind stress. A three-dimensional, multi-layer hydrodynamic model is employed with realistic topography and parameterisation of river plume physics. We focus on the seasonal patterns of transport of the river induced low-salinity waters within the Coastal Low Salinity Band and the conditions that influence their removal toward the shelf interior. The numerical simulations show that coastal circulation is greatly influenced by river runoff and especially in the case of the Danube, which is excessively high with monthly aver-aged values ranging from 5000 to 10000 m3 /s. A significant contribution of runoff comes from the neighbouring rivers. At the same time, the North Western Shelf is quite broad, so that the coastal dynamics are largely sheltered from the conditions in the deeper sea. Buoyancy due to river runoff thus dominates, creating a southward coastal current that is the predominant pathway for the land-drained inputs. As in all shelf areas, wind stress is a major circulation forcing mechanism and it modifies the buoyancy induced flow. It is shown that the seasonal variability in river runoff and wind stress, in combination with the shelf topography, determines the different pathways for the terrestrial inputs. Implications on the overall basin circulation are drawn, as the availability of low-salinity waters of river origin affects the upper Black Sea layer. Consequently, the formation of distinct water masses (such as the Cold Intermediate Layer) and the properties of the outflow toward the Mediterranean are also influenced.

Key words. Oceanography: general (continental shelf processes; numerical modelling) – Oceanography: physical (air-sea interactions)